Rehabilitation medicine refers to a branch in medicine that aims to enhance and bring back the functional ability of people with physical impairments and disabling medical conditions. Rehabilitation medicine covers a large number of disabling conditions and is broadly divided into four main areas:
- Neurological rehabilitation
- Spinal cord injury rehabilitation
- Limb loss or deficiency rehabilitation and prosthetics
- Musculoskeletal rehabilitation
During the rehabilitation process, specialists (also known as physiatrists) diagnose, evaluate and actively treat patients with such conditions. They start by looking through the history of the patient before examining or assessing their current situation. After that, they would identify and assign which treatments or rehabilitation programmes are most suited to the patient’s condition.
These treatments and programmes will then be done by the patients with supervision by the specialist to improve or manage their condition. These are common types of rehabilitation activities or programmes that a physiatrist may assign to patients:
- Cognitive rehabilitation medicine
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Assistive technology
- Recreational therapy
- Speech therapy
Patients with conditions include stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, amputation and trauma-related injuries would find rehabilitation medicine very helpful in not only improving their physical functions but also their general quality of life. These medical conditions may impair a person’s bodily functions up to the point that they are unable to carry out the simplest tasks. Other aspects of their lives, such as their careers and mental health, would be affected by this. Hence, physiatrists take on the role of problem solvers, facilitators and team leaders to ensure that the objective of the rehabilitation process is the patient’s overall well being.
The emphasis of rehabilitation medicine is not on the full restoration of function, but rather the optimisation of the quality of life for those if a complete recovery is not possible. Alongside the aforementioned rehabilitation programmes, assigning or diagnosing suitable aids to the patient from the specific information gathered is also a part of the process. For instance, when deciding on which walking device (wheelchair, cane, walker etc.), the specialist will take into account factors like the lifestyle of the patient, house layout and even preferences.
Rehabilitation medicine services provide continuous care since your first consultation, throughout your recovery at the hospital and even after you have been discharged. With the aim of restoration of skills and improved quality of life, the whole process is carried out with lots of consideration, with the patients’ wellbeing as a priority.