Physical medicine and rehabilitation

"PM&R" redirects here. For the journal, see PM&R (journal).
Names Physician
Activity sectors
Education required
M.D. or D.O. (US), M.B.B.S. (UK)

Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physiatry /fˈz.ətri/ or rehabilitation medicine, or physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM) outside of the United States, is a branch of medicine that aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities. A physician having completed training in this field is referred to as a physiatrist. Physiatrists specialize in restoring optimal function to people with injuries to the muscles, bones, ligaments, or nervous system.[1]

Scope of the field

In the hospital setting, physiatrists commonly treat patients who have had an amputation, spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other debilitating injuries. In treating these patients, physiatrists lead an interdisciplinary team of physical, occupational, recreational and speech therapists, nurses, psychologists, and social workers. In outpatient settings, physiatrists also treat patients with muscle and joint injuries, pain syndromes, non-healing wounds, and other disabling conditions. Physiatrists are trained to perform intramuscular and interarticular injections as well as nerve conduction studies.


The specialty that came to be known as PM&R was officially established in 1947, when an independent board of Physical Medicine was established under the authority of the American Board of Medical Specialties. During the first half of the 20th century, two unofficial specialties, physical medicine and rehabilitation medicine, developed separately, but in practice both treated similar patient populations consisting of those with disabling injuries. Frank H. Krusen was a pioneer of physical medicine, which emphasized the use of physical agents, such as hydrotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen, at Temple University and then at Mayo Clinic and it was he that coined the term 'physiatry' in 1938. Rehabilitation medicine gained prominence during both World Wars in the treatment of injured soldiers and laborers. Howard A. Rusk, an internal medicine physician from Missouri, became a pioneer of rehabilitation medicine after being appointed to rehabilitate air force pilots during World War II. In 1943, the Baruch Committee, commissioned by philanthropist Bernard Baruch, defined the specialty as a combination of the two fields and laid the framework for its acceptance as an official medical specialty. The committee also distributed funds to establish training and research programs across the nation. In 1949, at the insistence of Dr. Rusk and others, the specialty incorporated rehabilitation medicine and changed its name to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.[2]


The major concern that PM&R deals with as a medical field is the ability of a person to function optimally within the limitations placed upon them by a disabling impairment or disease process for which there is no known cure. The emphasis is not on the full restoration to the premorbid level of function, but rather the optimization of the quality of life for those not able to achieve full restoration. A team approach to chronic conditions is emphasized to coordinate care of patients. Comprehensive Rehabilitation is provided by specialists in this field, who act as facilitators, team leaders, and medical experts for rehabilitation.


In the United States, residency training for PM&R is four years long, including an intern year. There are 80 ACGME accredited programs in the United States across 28 states.[3]


Six formal sub-specializations are recognized by the field in the United States:[4]

Other subspecialties within the field that are recognized include the following:

See also


  1. "What is Physiatry? - HSS". Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  2. Verville, Richard (2009). War, Politics, and Philanthropy The History of Rehabilitation Medicine. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-4594-2.
  3. "A Step by Step Guide to Applying for a PM&R Residency". American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  4. "Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation". Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
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