Interview with Allyson Shrikhande on Physiatry

Allyson Shrikhande

Working with Physiatry for Pelvic Pain is a new remote course created by Dr. Allyson Shrikhande, scheduled for Jun 27, 2021. This course overviews the synergistic nature of pelvic physiatry with pelvic floor physical therapy, in hopes of promoting collaboration for the care of male and female chronic pelvic pain patients.

Dr. Allyson Shrikhande is a board-certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist and is the Chair of the Medical Education Committee for the International Pelvic Pain Society. Allyson has published peer-reviewed articles on the treatment of muscle pain in academic journals and works closely with renowned pelvic pain gynecologists and urologists. Taking a team approach, she works with specialists in pelvic floor physical therapy, kinetics and movement, as well as acupuncturists, nutritionists, cognitive-behavioral therapists, and functional medicine physicians.

The following is our interview with Allyson Shrikhande on physiatry.

Q: What is a physiatrist?

A: A physiatrist is an MD or DO with a specialty in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. This non-operative medical discipline involves focusing on the neuromusculoskeletal system to help patients recover their functional well-being and quality of life. We describe physiatry as an extension of physical therapy because a physiatrist diagnoses, manages, and treats pain from injury, illness, or medical conditions, incorporating other methods in concert with physical therapy to rehabilitate the body. Physiatrists are trained not solely in one organ system – rather, they take a holistic, full-body approach that accounts for the interplay of different organ systems, both with each other and with the neuromuscular and myofascial systems. 

Q: What does a physiatrist do? 

A: Physiatrists work with physical therapy to rehabilitate the neuromuscular system. A core underlying theme in physiatry is the concept of Neuroplasticity. This is the understanding that the nervous system has the ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to experience or learning following injury. 

Q: What do physiatrists treat? 

A: Because physiatrists focus on the interconnected systems of the entire body, they treat a wide range of injuries and disorders. Physiatrists commonly work with patients who have pelvic, back or neck pain who are recovering from issues such as sports injuries, neuromuscular disorders, arthritis, or injuries to the brain or spinal cord.

Q: Why would I see a physiatrist? 

A: At Pelvic Rehabilitation Medicine, our Pelvic Physiatrists diagnose and treat the structures of the pelvis – the muscles, nerves, and joints. One of our physiatrists can provide non-operative options to medically manage and treat pelvic pain and pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. We treat an array of symptoms under the umbrella of pelvic pain which includes pain with intercourse, urinary urgency/frequency or pain with urination, constipation or painful bowel movements, and pain affecting the coccyx, groin, pelvis, lower back, and lower abdomen.

Q: As a pelvic floor physical therapist, what can I learn from a physiatrist?

A: The relationship between physiatry and physical therapy is vital to the collaborative approach that our pelvic pain patients require. Physiatrists perform a full neuromuscular exam (including an internal pelvic floor exam) and can order imaging, prescribe oral medications, suppositories, and topical medications for some patients. Our physiatrists can also perform safe outpatient ultrasound-guided procedures to treat underlying neuromuscular dysfunction, all in combination with continued pelvic floor PT when appropriate. 

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