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9.2. Physician


Your physician determines the medical necessity of providing you with a wheelchair, as evidenced by a prescription.  In addition, your physician determines the medical necessity of providing you with a seating evaluation, also evidenced by the provision of a prescription.

The doctor you schedule your first meeting with about getting a wheelchair may be a general practitioner (example: Primary Care Physician) or a specialist (examples: Physiatrist, Neurologist, or Orthopedist).

A physiatrist, or rehabilitation physician, is a nerve, muscle, and bone expert who treats injuries or illnesses that affect how you move

Physical medicine and rehabilitation involves the management of disorders that alter the function and performance of the patient. Emphasis is placed on the optimization of function through the combined use of medications, physical modalities, physical training with therapeutic exercise, movement & activities modification, adaptive equipment and assistive device, orthotics (braces), prosthesis, and experiential training approaches.

Rehabilitation physicians are medical doctors who have completed training in the medical specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). Specifically, rehabilitation physicians:

  • Diagnose and treat pain
  • Restore maximum function lost through injury, illness or disabling conditions
  • Treat the whole person, not just the problem area
  • Lead a team of medical professionals
  • Provide non-surgical treatments
  • Explain your medical problems and treatment/prevention plan

A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system. Neurologists do not perform surgery.

A neurologist's training includes an undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, a one-year internship, and at least three years of specialized training. Many neurologists also have additional training in other areas—or subspecialties—of neurology such as stroke, epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, and movement disorders. These are some of the more common subspecialties within the field of neurology.

What Does a Neurologist Treat?

Common neurologic disorders include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Brain tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Headache
  • Pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Stroke
  • Tremor

Orthopedics is a branch of medicine focused on injuries to the musculoskeletal system, including spine and joint injuries or deformities. There are multiple branches of orthopedics, including orthopedic surgeons, rheumatologists, and orthopedic pediatricians. They work in small, specialized practices, in larger, less specialized practices, or in hospitals.

Orthopedic doctors treat broken bones, joint problems, like arthritis, and degenerative conditions, like osteoporosis. They also treat sports injuries, infections, congenital conditions, and tumors in the bones. The work depends on what specialty a doctor chooses, or by where they choose to practice medicine. A doctor in a small, specialized clinic may only treat sports injuries, for example, while orthopedic doctors in a large hospital may work with everything from sprained ankles to a patient receiving a hip transplant.

The education and training to become an orthopedic doctor lasts about 13 years, with eight years of schooling (both undergraduate and postgraduate), and five years of residency. During this time, an orthopedic doctor chooses a specialty to study. This could be a focus the bones of a particular body part, such as the hand, musculoskeletal oncology, joint replacement, or any of the other numerous branches of orthopedics.

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