Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Dr. Douglas Chang, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation in Orthopedic Surgery, explains the process patients go through when receiving an epidural steroid injection for pain management. (Length: 3:24)

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians (physiatrists) treat conditions that affect how your body functions as a whole.

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.

Our physiatrists treat musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, pain, repetitive stress injuries and acute and chronic conditions (e.g., arthritis and stroke).

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Treatments

Our team provides integrated care and treatment for conditions related to muscles, bones and brain. The following tools are used to help patients comfortably recover from the effects of immobilizing conditions and increase their overall ability to function.

Therapeutic Exercise

UC San Diego Health physiatrists tailor expert physical therapy programs to specific conditions. Specially designed therapeutic exercise can have a powerful impact on people living with:

Advanced Diagnostic Medicine

Neurology and physical medicine and rehabilitation are the only two medical specialties with formal training in electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS). These studies are used to assess various neurologic problems. Leading-edge electrodiagnostic studies and imaging are also used to evaluate and confirm a diagnosis.

Medications and Interventional Procedures

In addition to prescribing medication for pain, our physiatrists also perform epidurals and injections.

Common areas for epidural treatment:

  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Elbow

This is a popular option for 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

Using advanced orthopedic devices and prostheses, our physiatrists are able to:

  • Support and correct the function of an injured part of the body. 
  • Treat and prevent all types of chronic pain.
  • Help amputee patients strengthen the necessary muscles to increase function with their device.

Did You Know?
A poorly designed workspace can cause and aggravate chronic pain. Our team will evaluate your posture and position at work and provide recommendations for an ergonomic, physically appropriate work environment. Using adaptive equipment in the office, home, car and elsewhere can make a huge difference when it comes to pain relief.

When physical medicine and rehabilitation is unable to provide adequate pain relief or improve functioning, a surgical approach may be recommended. 

Appointments & Referrals

Meet Our Specialists

“ 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.”

- Dr. Douglas Chang
Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Related Services

VIDEO: Back Pain Rehabilitation


Dr. Douglas Chang discusses rehabilitation for back pain.