Difference between Physical Therapist and Physiatrist

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


New Member
Sep 17, 2020
Reaction score
I’ve been trying to find a clear cut answer to this but I can’t seem to find one. What I’ve found is that physiatrists are able to perform more procedures, they usually lead a team of specialists (PTs, OTs, nurses, etc.), and they prescribe exercise programs for the patients. I’ve also seen that physiatrists do not do the rehab themselves. I was just wondering if any PTs out there work with PM&R physicians daily and what is their role in comparison to yours in terms of patient care.

Members don't see this ad.
Physiatrists are the medical managers. They may manage spasticity meds, other meds such as pain meds or anti-depressants, procedures potentially like EMG nerve conduction studies. They also manage the overall medical care of patietns with complex disabilities- could be getting feeding tube for a patient with nutrition issues. They do not do the actual therapy. They usually get a lot of input from the treating therapists on care plan, such as if therapists believe they would benefit from spasticity management.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Physiatrist mainly prescribes pain med to patients and/or refers them to PT. A PT does hand-on rehabilitation to get patients back physically to where they we before an injury/sickness or as close as possible to it. PT does not prescribe any meds, but prescribes and provides physical training (for balance, ability to walk, etc) and manual treatments. It would make much more sense to you if you could shadow a PT and a physiatrist for even a couple of days.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
they are also medical doctors that have gone to medical school, PTs do not.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user