What is the Difference Between Physical Therapy and Physiatry?

When you are in chronic pain after experiencing an accident or injury, or because of an orthopedic long-term condition, and are in need of extensive treatment, there are a few specialists you can choose from to help you feel better. 

While some people may be able to recuperate on their own, it’s often required by physicians to get professional help, either from a physiatrist or physical therapist. Both professions are closely linked, but there are clear differences. We have prepared information for you, to help you differentiate between the two.

Physical Therapy

If you are one of the few people who seldom use this phrase, you are lucky. It means that neither you or your loved ones have sustained an injury or suffer from a chronic disease. 

Physical therapy uses a variety of treatments and physical exercises to commence the rehabilitation process at the onset of injury or pain. Through these treatments and exercises, physical therapy can efficiently and effectively stimulate your body, reduce pain and prevent future damage.

Physical therapists at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic can initially manage the issue and pain, and then instruct patients on how to prevent or treat their condition after therapy, so that they will obtain long-term health benefits. PTs examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment methods to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability in the long term.

03B65812-1-600x409 What is the Difference Between Physical Therapy and Physiatry?


Physiatry, (also called PM&R – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation), is a medical specialty that aims to improve health, restore functional ability, reduce pain and enhance the quality of life for patients with physical impairments or disabilities. 

The term “physiatry” was created by Dr. Frank H. Krusen in 1938 and recognized by the American Medical Association in 1946. The field developed remarkably during World War II when it was used to help large numbers of injured soldiers.

Physiatrists provide cohesive care in the treatment of conditions associated with the brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles, and bones.  These conditions can be disturbing and impair your mobility, self-care skills, ability to work or take part in leisure activities.


  • lead a team of healthcare professionals to bring your maximum health back, after an injury or an onset of illness.
  • provide non-surgical treatment options.
  • treat the whole person (holistic approach), not just the individual complaint.
  • after accurately diagnosing the cause of disability and/or pain, develop a wide-ranging rehabilitation/treatment strategy.

The difference between physical therapy and physiatry.

Physical therapists and physiatrists are very different, but have similar training, and are often both part of a patient’s rehabilitation team. Physiatrists have longer and more intensive training in the function of the human body (they have completed medical school plus four years of residency training), and can prescribe medications as well as identify medical conditions that can affect rehabilitation. 

A physical therapist, who has completed a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program of (typically) 3 years, is just as important, as after the physiatrist plans the course of rehabilitation, the physical therapist executes it.

Physical therapists don’t diagnose medical conditions, but physiatrists do. A physiatrist uses diagnostic tools like X-ray, nerve conduction studies, and electromyography to identify the underlying medical conditions that require rehabilitation.

Both specialties are educated in the application of exercise and equipment on the road to recovery and frequently offer each other support. This can consist of coaching, much like a personal trainer, motivation, and even mental support.

Physiatrist and Physical Therapy in Holly Springs 

The Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic’s board certified, fellowship trained physiatrist and physical therapists bring together many years of experience to diagnose, manage and correct various conditions.

Make an appointment with one of our physiatrists or physical therapists to get specialized treatment with a personal approach.

Learn more here:

Physical Therapy in Holly Springs (and other locations)

Physiatrist in Holly Springs (and other locations)       



The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.