Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
UC San Diego Health System Newsletter
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians, also called physiatrists, treat conditions that affect how you function with the goal of restoring physical ability and improving quality of life. A medical doctor trained in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation addresses injuries or illness by treating the whole person, not just specific symptoms or certain body parts. Our physiatry specialists treat musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, pain, repetitive stress injuries, and acute and chronic conditions.
“ I am sensitive to the complex interactions of the body and the mind when working through a condition that involves the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. I have years of additional training both in the research lab and clinically with patients, specifically in the field of orthopedic biomechanics, pain management and sports medicine.”
- Douglas Chang, MD, PhD, Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialists
The tools of physical medicine and rehabilitation are medications, therapeutic exercise, movement and activity modifications, and adaptive equipment.
You may be recovering from the effects of a stroke or spinal cord injury, or perhaps you have arthritis or a sports injury. You may have been through weeks of physical therapy and still feel immobilized due to your
hip or back pain. This is when physical medicine and rehabilitation can step in and optimize your ability to function comfortably and restore your quality of life.
Dr. Douglas Chang discusses physical medicine and rehabilitation for back pain.
UC San Diego Health System physiatrists tailor expert physical therapy programs to specific conditions. Specially designed therapeutic exercise can have a powerful impact on people living with low back pain, neck pain, herniated discs, knee arthritis, knee meniscal tears, shoulder rotator cuff injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, hip bursitis and iliotibial band syndrome. We also treat people who have had brain injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, amputations, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and neuromuscular conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and ALS.
Advanced Diagnostic Medicine
Physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurology, are the only two medical specialties with formal training in electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS). These studies are used to evaluate various neurologic problems. If indicated, we will use electrodiagnostic studies, imaging or other procedures to evaluate and confirm a diagnosis.
In addition to other forms of prescription medication, physiatrists also perform epidurals and injections into the knee, hip, elbow and other joints to alleviate pain. This helps individuals who are not ready for or are not a good candidate for surgery. Medicinal injections can also help identify the cause of a person’s pain.
Orthotics, Prostheses and Adaptive Equipment
UC San Diego Health System physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians can prescribe orthopedic devices that support or correct the function of an injured part of the body. With extensive training in biomechanics, our physiatrists work in collaborative health care teams to address the needs of people who have had an amputation. We prescribe advanced prostheses and work with you to strengthen the necessary muscles to enable reliable function with the device.
Our physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians frequently find that chronic pain is caused or worsened by a poorly designed workspace. By examining the posture and position of your body during work, our team can provide recommendations for ergonomic, physically appropriate work environments to help treat chronic pain. Using adaptive equipment in the office, home, car and elsewhere can make a difference and provide relief.
When physical medicine and rehabilitation don’t provide adequate pain relief or improved functioning, a surgical approach may be recommended. See the other areas of expertise within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery for more information on surgical treatment options for various conditions.