Physiatry: The Path to Pain-Free, Active Living

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Physiatry, also called physical medicine and rehabilitation, is unique to the highly specialized world of healthcare.

“It’s the only medical specialty that doesn’t focus on a particular organ or part of the body,” says Bradley Benson, DO, Physiatrist, Neurosurgery and Physiatry at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Group (YRMG).

Physiatrists help treat medical conditions that affect the entire body—arthritis, multiple sclerosis, spine injuries and strokes, for example. Even so, many people are not aware of the physiatrists’ role in healing or even how to pronounce the name of the specialty (it’s fǝ – zī – ǝ – trē).

During this episode of Healthy Conversations, Dr. Benson introduces you to physiatry, a specialty you’re guaranteed to fully appreciate once you learn more about it. He also highlights how the team at YRMG, Neurosurgery and Physiatry helps people with medical conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.

Focus on Function
“There’s a big focus on function and quality of life in physiatry,” explains Dr. Benson. “Few medical specialties embrace this the way physiatry does. We look at our patients holistically. I’m always asking what combination of treatments will best improve each patient’s well-being.”

How does this translate to patient care plans? Dr. Benson’s team emphasizes non-surgical solutions, conservative treatments and comprehensive care.

For example, chronic back pain due to arthritis may be treated with ultrasound and fluoroscopic-guided injections to the spine. These non-surgical therapies are often combined with exercise, physical therapy and nutrition management. And, because chronic back pain can disrupt sleep patterns and cause anxiety, patients may be referred to experts who can help them address those issues.

“We look at the patient’s pain level and how that affects their life,” says Dr. Benson. “We also coordinate with other healthcare providers to ensure every aspect of the patient’s condition is addressed.”

Their healthcare provider partners specialize in a variety of areas, including:

  • Neurosurgery
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Primary care
  • Rheumatology
  • Spine surgery

Making Backs Better
It’s estimated that approximately 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives. The team at YRMG, Neurosurgery and Physiatry are experts at minimally invasive (non-surgical) procedures that alleviate back pain. This includes:

  • Ultrasound guided injections of medications that ease back pain and reduce inflammation
  • Fluoroscopic (X-ray) guided injections for precise placement of medications in the spine’s epidural space (the inside surface of the spinal canal)
  • Radiofrequency ablation to treat arthritic joint pain of the spine

“These procedures can reduce or eliminate patients’ back pain for varying amounts of time,” Dr. Benson says.

For example, radiofrequency ablation for arthritis in the spine keeps people pain-free for six months to two years. Dr. Benson also uses ultrasound and fluoroscopic-guided procedures to alleviate pain in the joints and tendons.

Regenerative Medicine
Regenerative medicine is on the leading-edge of the latest non-surgical treatment options. These treatments tap the body’s natural healing processes to rebuild damaged tissues, repair injuries and reduce pain. At YRMG, Neurosurgery and Physiatry, patients undergo:

  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) – The platelets in our blood contain proteins called “growth factors” that help heal injuries. During PRP, these natural healers are collected from a sample of the patient’s own blood, processed and then injected into the patient’s damaged tissue. PRP treatments help regenerate and rebuild tissue.

“Our community is full of active adults who enjoy golfing, hiking and playing pickle ball,” says Dr. Benson. “PRP is an excellent option for them and anyone who wants to live without pain and stay active.”

  • Prolotherapy – This minimally invasive treatment helps reduce pain in the muscles and joints. During prolotherapy, a solution containing saline or dextrose is injected into the injured muscle or joint to promote the growth of connective tissue.

Botox for Migraines and More
Dr. Benson highlights more minimally invasive and non-surgical procedures during the Healthy Conversations presentation. Watch it to learn how the team at YRMG, Neurosurgery and Physiatry uses Botox to treat:

  • Chronic migraines
  • Muscle spasticity after a stroke (involuntary muscle contraction or relaxation in the fingers, arms or legs following a stroke)
  • Cervical dystonia (involuntary contractions of the neck muscles)

Interested in learning more about the services offered at YRMG, Neurosurgery and Physiatry? Speak to your primary care provider or contact YRMG, Neurosurgery and Physiatry at (928) 445-4818.