Physical medicine helps facilitate a person's physical function. Holistic in approach, it attempts to understand structure and function in the human body. Physical medicine aims to restore the greatest level of function possible for a person who has become disabled. A patient achieves this with physical training through therapeutic exercise, the modification of movement and activity, adaptive equipment and sometimes the use of prosthetic devices or orthotics. A doctor specializing in physical medicine is called a physiatrist.
Rehabilitation includes the disciplines of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Massage therapy is sometimes included as an adjunct to physical therapy. A psychologist may also be part of the treatment plan.
In addition to exercise and manual therapies, therapists can also use other mechanical forms of therapy, such as electrostimulation, which employes a special machine called a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit that, as the name suggests, stimulates the nerves with electrical current.
The physiatrist may use electrodiagnostics, which measure the electrical activity of affected nerves and muscles, to provide more specific evaluations of neuromuscular disorders.