If you’ve suffered from a bad injury or endure chronic pain, you might be referred to a physical therapist or physiatrist. If your physician recommends both, you may be wondering: what’s the difference? Why do I need to see two specialists for the same problem?

What is the Difference between a Physiatrist and Physical Therapist?

While there are similarities between the two, physiatrists normally diagnose and prescribe physical therapy. Physiatrists can specialize in the following areas:

  • Chronic pain
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Sports injuries
  • Post-op care
  • Musculoskeletal care

Physiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat any musculoskeletal issues a patient has, then creates a rehabilitation plan that may include seeing a physical therapist. The physical therapist will guide you through exercises and stretches to help alleviate discomfort and improve mobility, while the physiatrist continues to oversee and monitor the patient’s progress.

If you have chronic pain due to aging, discomfort from an old injury, or an upcoming surgery, you may be referred to a physiatrist. Your physiatrist will assess whether you are stable enough to begin the rehabilitation process, and they will work to treat any underlying issues that may cause complications with your treatment. Your physical therapist will then use the information provided by your physiatrist to create a physical rehabilitation plan.

When you see your physical therapist, they will use methods such as massage, heat, or exercise as part of your treatment. A physical therapist can help strengthen muscles and restore a patient’s flexibility, mobility, and dexterity. You will see your physical therapist on a consistent basis, and they will serve as your go-to support during recovery.

Well Rounded Treatment

Physiatrists and physical therapists work together to improve your health and mobility, and both play an integral part in your recovery. Both specialists are very knowledgeable and will help you get back to living a pain-free and active lifestyle.

Learn more about Catholic Health’s Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation program and its services by visiting us online at chsbuffalo.org/services/physical-therapy-rehab or calling (716) 706-2112.

Find a Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2112

Find a Specialist Near You
Call (716) 706-2112