Physiatrist vs Physical Therapist: 5 Major Differences

Physiatrist vs Physical Therapist

If you are experiencing mobility issues following an injury or medical incident, your healthcare professional might recommend seeing a physiatrist and a physical therapist to help you move again. What’s the difference between these two? Do I have to choose one instead of both?

Physical therapists and physiatrists use their expertise in medicine to assist you with restoring your movement to prevent injury and improve overall health. While their ultimate goal might be identical, the techniques used by the two professions are quite distinct and require different treatment methods.

5 Key Differences Between Physical Therapists and Physiatrists


The most significant distinction between physiatrists and physical therapy professionals is their training in medicine. A physiatrist can be described as a certified, licensed medical doctor who has graduated from medical school and has an internship or residency requirement. Physical therapists earn an advanced degree of three years in physical therapy. They must also earn their certificate.

Although both medical practitioners are aware of the muscles and skeletal system inside and out, the physiatrist’s deeper training provides them with more depth of understanding of the body’s functioning and structure. They also thoroughly understand how the cardiovascular, nervous and various systems influence the muscle and skeletal systems.

As rehabilitation and physical medicine specialists, physical therapists can also prescribe medications and carry out other non-surgical treatments that physical therapists do not have, such as injections. Physical therapists employ advanced techniques such as traction and transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS); however, they have to connect you with a doctor who is able to prescribe treatments. If you’re suffering from complex medical requirements, you’ll be grateful to have a doctor nearby.


A physiatrist is the one who plays the most critical responsibility of diagnosing, treating and managing issues related to musculoskeletal. Your MD develops a complete treatment program based on the study’s findings, oversees the plan’s execution, and evaluates its efficacy. They will check in with your physical therapist and you regularly during your hospital stay to ensure your plan is effective.

The physical therapist you choose to work with is accountable for carrying out the treatment plan suggested by your physician. You are likely to take on most rehabilitation procedures when you attend physical therapy, including specific exercises and hands-on techniques.

3.The First-Time Visit

As part of your treatment plan, your appointment with the physiatrist precedes physical therapy. As an integral member of your healthcare team, Your physiatrist will gather detailed information about your health history, physical examination and diagnostic testing at your initial visit. They will then formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

A physiatrist has a complete review of every aspect of your health before diagnosing or treating you. The doctor can put together the services of a group of health professionals to restore your physical ability, including physical therapists, among other specialists.

When you visit your physician, you can have an assessment with your physical therapist. They could conduct a few of their tests to test your muscle strength, balance and reflexes, and flexibility. Based on the information from your doctor and their evaluations, they will start the first therapy session.


Physical therapists do not identify medical issues. However, doctors do. The physiatrist employs tools for diagnoses, such as X-rays, nerve conduction studies and electromyography, to pinpoint the root of medical issues needing rehabilitation.

The physiatrist will look at the whole picture of your health and consider any conditions that may be co-existing to design the best treatment strategy. They can help you and your physical therapist with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, COPD, and arthritis. They also provide a range of non-surgical methods to manage pain.

For cases such as diabetic limb amputations that require special care, a physiatrist is a key part of the recovery process. They will provide you with the tools needed to restore your function, including prosthetic devices to manage pain.

To execute your care, the physical therapist you see uses your diagnostic information and suggestions provided by your physician and physiatrist. They may assist you using a prosthetic or assistive device and alter the treatment plan based on your physiatrist’s guidance.

5.Frequency of visits

You will likely visit your doctor less often than a PT.

It is possible to see your physiatrist to get your initial examination and for periodic visits until you’ve achieved your goals for rehabilitation.

You’ll visit your physical therapist frequently, whether every day or once every couple of days over weeks. The therapist you see regularly provides ongoing support and is your primary contact with your physician.

Physical Therapy VS Physical Therapy; Who will be your correct choice

Now you understand how your physical therapist and physiatrist are in the overall treatment plan. They all play an important role in your rehabilitation and cannot be replaced or eliminated. Now you need to choose a specialist according to your problem & intensity of problem. Sometime in the initial stage they both recommend hand therapy exercise as basic treatment.

Spread the love
By Admin