Healthcare Perspectives - Physical Medicine/Bodywork

Physical Medicine involves the management of disorders that impair oneís function and performance of physical mobility issues or complex cognitive challenges. Emphasis is placed on the optimization of function through the combined use of medications, physical modalities, and experiential training approaches. Beginning in the 1930s with the physical treatment of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, physicians began to specialize in the field of physical medicine and the field in now commonly known as Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R).

Among the early pioneers of the field include Dr. Frank Krusen who developed the Department of Physical Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in 1936. The American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association recognized PM&R as a medical specialty in 1947. The field expanded rapidly after World War II. Many veterans with severe disabilities returned to the United States and there was a great demand for specialized physicians to treat and manage the inflow of chronic debilitating conditions. Polio epidemic in the early 1950s also helped establish the value of physiatrists in management of neuromuscular disorders. Advances that allowed longer survival from disorders as varied as spinal cord injury and stroke led to a greater role of physiatrists in managing chronic conditions.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation practitioners focus on restoring function which is proportionate to each individualís capabilities. They treat acute and chronic pain, and musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain, tendonitis, pinched nerves and work- or sports-related injuries. The field also treats people who have experienced catastrophic events resulting in paraplegia, quadriplegia, or traumatic brain injury; and individuals who have had strokes, orthopedic injuries, or neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, polio, or ALS.

In recent years, PM&R is experiencing an increased focus on musculoskeletal medicine and industrial medicine, pain management, sports medicine, and electromyography (EMG). An integrative approach to chronic conditions is emphasized, using multi-disciplinary perspectives and state-of-the-art technological support to coordinate care of the patients and to assist in the healing process. PM&R is practiced in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and in private offices either employing a broad practice encompassing multiple disciplines or concentrating on one area such as pediatrics, sports medicine, geriatric medicine, brain injury or other special interests.

Healing Modalities within Physical Medicine/Bodywork

  • Bodywork & Massage
  • Manipulation
  • Western Rehabilitation/Physical Therapy
  • Functional Somatic Education
  • Structural Somatic Education
  • Personal Training/Body Building


A license to touch and for massage is needed

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