Rehabilitation Medicine

Rehabilitation medicine includes efforts to improve function and minimize impairment related to activities that may have been hampered by illnesses or injuries. Disabling conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and cerebral palsy, as well as musculoskeletal issues and pain, may require various levels of rehabilitation medicine.

The goal of rehabilitation medicine is twofold:

  • To maximize function, participation, independence, and quality of life for a person with a disabling condition and
  • To maintain and prevent any further decline in a person’s functioning.

The World Health Organization defines “rehabilitation research” as the study of mechanisms and interventions that prevent loss of function or improve, restore, or replace lost, underdeveloped, or deteriorating function.1

The NICHD supports rehabilitation medicine research focused on improving outcomes for people with chronic physical disabilities, including studies of causes of disability, mechanisms of injury and repair, treatments to minimize impairment, and tools to improve function. The NICHD’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research provides a focal point for coordinating research related to rehabilitation medicine across the NIH.

Common Name

  • Rehabilitation medicine
  • Rehab medicine
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Medical rehabilitation
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R)

Medical or Scientific Name

  • Rehabilitation medicine
  • Rehabilitative medicine
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R)


  1. World Health Organization. (2002). Towards a Common Language for Functioning, Disability and Health: The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Accessed May 11, 2015, from External Web Site Policy (PDF - 221 KB)
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