McGraw-Hill MedicalError | AccessMedicine | McGraw-Hill MedicalPhysical medicine and rehabilitation , also called physiatry or rehabilitation medicine , medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis , treatment, and prevention of physical impairments, particularly those associated with disorders of the muscles, nerves, bones, or brain. This specialized medical service is generally aimed at rehabilitating persons disabled by pain or ailments affecting the motor functions of the body. Physical medicine is one means employed to assist these patients to return to a comfortable and productive life, often despite the persistence of a medical problem. For centuries people have used such natural physical agents as hot springs and sunlight to treat ailments, but the development of physical medicine as a specialized medical service took place largely after World War I. Two factors influenced its growth in the 20th century—epidemic poliomyelitis and the two World Wars—both of which created large numbers of seriously handicapped young people. Physical medicine was definitively established through the American physician Howard A. Physical medicine then became available for the treatment of patients with such diverse problems as fractures, burns, tuberculosis, painful backs, strokes, nerve and spinal cord injuries, diabetes, birth defects, arthritis, and vision and speech impairments.
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