When Should I See a Physiatrist?

November 17th, 2022  Topics: Orthopaedics

Many people who feel back or neck pain will seek the help of an orthopaedic surgeon immediately. But another expert to consider is a physiatrist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions without surgery.

When should you see a physiatrist? Ali Shah, MD, a board-certified and fellowship-trained physiatrist with Upper Bucks Orthopaedics at Grand View Health, recommends you consider seeing a physiatrist if you experience:

  • Pain in your back or neck. This could be a sign of a muscle strain, a muscle sprain, a nerve injury, a pinched nerve, or a condition bothering the nerves near the spinal column (peripheral nerve damage).
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.
  • Weakness in your extremities.
  • Unexplained weight gain around the joints.
  • Neck pain that radiates down your arms or into your chest. This could be a condition called cervical radiculopathy.
  • Back pain that radiates down one or both legs. This could be a sign of either lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica.
  • Low back pain that gets worse with activity (walking or standing) and better with sitting. This is also called facet mediated lower back pain.

Most often, patients will see a physiatrist before they meet with an orthopaedic surgeon. “That allows us to try conservative treatments — such as exercise, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections or nerve blocks — that can help ease discomfort,” Dr. Shah says. However, sometimes people will visit physiatrists at the recommendation of their orthopaedic surgeon.

In addition to caring for neck and back pain, Dr. Shah also provides diagnosis and treatment for many other conditions. See him if you have or suspect:

  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • A sports injury
  • A work injury

“No matter the cause of your pain or orthopaedic condition, our goal is to help you regain function and relieve pain so you can get back to a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Shah says.

Dr. Shah currently sees patients at Upper Bucks Orthopaedics locations in Harleysville and Pennsburg.

To make an appointment with Dr. Shah, call 215-257-3700.