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Physiatry at BIDMC

What is a physiatrist?

A physiatrist (pronounced fizeeATrist) is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating spine and musculoskeletal disorders, such as disc herniations, back arthritis, and fractures or tumors of the spine. This speciality is called physiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), or rehabilitation medicine.

Physiatrists use exercise, medications, devices and non-surgical procedures to treat painful spine problems. The key to managing this pain is to locate its source. For example, patients often come in complaining of pain in the neck. But this pain could actually be the result of a shoulder injury. Once the source of the pain is pinpointed, an individualized treatment plan is developed that may include physical therapy and injections.

How does physiatry fit into spine care at BIDMC?

The Spine Center's physiatrists are Stefan C. Muzin, MD, and Anthony Lee, MD

Most back and neck pain will respond to nonsurgical treatment. For patients with spine problems, evaluation by a physiatrist can be an excellent first step, since physiatrists are experts in the assessment and management of pain and dysfunction, including imaging evaluation, exercise and modality prescription, and minimally invasive pain management procedures such as injections.

Because back pain is such an important medical problem with tremendous impact on our society, physicians and surgeons from many medical specialties are dedicated to diagnosing and treating disorders of the spine. Our physiatrists collaborate with neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and pain management specialists to decide whether each patient would benefit from surgery or non-operative treatment.

What type of care do the Spine Center's physiatrists provide?

Our physiatrists offer a full range of conservative (nonsurgical or minimally invasive) care at the Spine Center at BIDMC. Patients can expect a thorough neuromuscular and musculoskeletal evaluation, as well as an explanation of their condition.

Treatment plans may include exercise or therapy prescriptions, pool exercise, physical methods such as cryotherapy or electric stimulation, orthoses and assistive devices, or medical management. Procedures available for diagnosing or treating spine pain include image-guided injections — for example, epidural injections, zygapophyseal joint (facet) injections and denervation, soft tissue and joint injections, and nerve blocks. Many patients with back or neck pain benefit from these physiatric treatments. Our physiatrists will take the greatest care to weigh the benefits and risks of any treatment.


American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) 
Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP)
International Spine Intervention Society (ISIS)
American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA)
American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM)

Contact Information

Spine Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clinical Center, Second Floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215