Physiatry, or Rehabilitation Medicine, is the science of treating chronic ailments, whether medical, mental or physical, by natural means. The purpose is usually to relieve chronic pain, or to bring back movement to limbs which had been damaged by anything from extreme trauma to severe medical issues. The aim is to enable patients to live as near normal a life as possible, despite their disabilities.

Whilst exercise and joint manipulation are the main procedures used to achieve these ends, the health giving benefits of sunlight, fresh air and mineral baths are not ignored. Patients to benefit from this speciality are often enabled to have the satisfaction of becoming productive and valued members of society again, whereas they may previously have felt themselves to be a burden on their families. The procedures are therefore extremely valuable in maintaining mental health, as well as the purely physical. Whilst being very similar in many ways to orthopaedic practices, physiatry is also practised by physicians and surgeons in many other disciplines such as burns; nerve damage; back problems; strokes; arthritis; and any other complaints which can reduce a patient's mobility.

These practices have of course been utilised by doctors for thousands of years. There was a resurgence of interest however, after World War I when hundreds of thousands of young men, who were otherwise reasonably fit, suffered injuries which reduce their mobility dramatically. Within a generation World War II broke out; with many more people joining the ranks of the infirm as a consequence.

The post-war polio epidemic increase the number of physically disadvantaged people again; and this time the age range spread right down to that of very young children.

A great deal of work in this field was carried out by American physician Howard A. Rusk, who founded the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in 1950.

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