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6 Questions With Dr. Jose S. Campos MD

Q. Jersey Integrative Health & Wellness: What is the typical education and training to become a physiatrist?

Dr. Campos: Both academic and clinical training are required to become a physiatrist. For myself, following medical school at Rutgers UMDNJ, I had a year of Internship at Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center and then three years of residency in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at UMDNJ – Kessler. After residency, I pursued a fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York in Sports Medicine and Interventional Spine procedures. I am Board Certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation as well as Sports Medicine. I am a member of the AAPMR and the Association of Academic Physiatrists, where I have participated in teaching resident workshops. Some physiatrists have a subspecialty in pain management or musculoskeletal disorders. They may also complete fellowships in traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, geriatrics, or other subspecialties.

Q. Jersey Integrative Health & Wellness: Do physiatrists typically practice in specialty groups?

Dr. Campos: Physiatrists started to be integrated into orthopedic and surgical practices about 20 years ago. I currently work with multiple orthopedic physicians and physical therapists to close the circle of care to help my patients get back to doing whatever it is that they want to do.

Q. Jersey Integrative Health & Wellness: What is a physiatrist’s role in caring for patients with neck and low back pain?

Dr. Campos: My role is to triage patients who come in with acute or chronic neck or low back pain. I establish a plan to evaluate each patient individually to determine the cause of their pain. I then assess appropriate non-operative treatment options, which are effective for the majority of patients. My goal is to alleviate the patient’s pain without any invasive procedures or unnecessary surgeries. I help the patient achieve functional restoration as opposed to just masking the pain by prescribing medication. This may involve a referral for physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, injections, and/or short-term treatment with medication. I want to see if the patient’s condition can be improved with these types of conservative therapies before considering an invasive intervention.

Q. Jersey Integrative Health & Wellness: Do physiatrists only treat neck or back pain?

Dr. Campos: No. In my practice, my specialty and focus is total body care with an emphasis on athletes and physically active people. Here, at JIHW, the role of the physiatrist is to evaluate and treat all musculoskeletal problems, which may include the extremities (e.g., arms, legs). However, a physiatrist may practice in a multi-orthopedic group where he treats hands, shoulders, knees, and ankles — any musculoskeletal problem. As a Physiatrist, I endeavor to manage pain without surgery and make the appropriate referral if necessary.

Q. Jersey Integrative Health & Wellness: Is a physiatrist different from a pain medicine specialist?

Dr. Campos: Yes. A physiatrist may have a subspecialty in pain medicine, but all physiatrists are not pain medicine specialists. When I started at JIHW, very few physiatrists specialized in pain medicine management. That has changed over the last 7years. Now, there is a fellowship program for physiatrists and anesthesiologists to become pain medicine specialists.

Q. Jersey Integrative Health & Wellness: How are physiatrists involved with pain medications?

Dr. Campos: I try to explain from the first visit that our goal is non-reliance on pain medications, although some patients may need a pain drug, especially during the acute phase of treatment or an recent injury, we teach patients how to manage their pain symptoms with exercise and other techniques. Pain medications can be used intermittently to manage flare-ups, including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and nerve stabilizing medications. However, I do not prescribe opiates as part of my practice.

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