Jennifer Hankenson, MD, hardly knew what a physiatrist—a doctor with specialty focused on physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R)—was until her husband was hit by a car while she was in medical school.
“He was badly hurt and had to learn to do many of the things he could easily do before the accident, in addition to managing his pain and going back to work,” Dr. Hankenson says. “One doctor put him on a lot of different medications that made him drowsy and not his usual self. Then, we received a recommendation to see a physician who was trained in PM&R. My husband was then able to come off all of his pain medications and get his quality of life back.”
Dr. Hankenson, who had been leaning toward a career in general or plastic surgery, decided to specialize in PM&R herself. She treats general musculoskeletal conditions and offers neurorehabilitation for adults and children—both in the hospital and in her outpatient clinic.
“I find it so rewarding to be able to follow my pediatric patients and continue treating them as they transition into adult care and offering that level of consistency, which is important,” Dr. Hankensen says.
Dr. Hankensen’s clinical interests include ultrasound guided procedures and regenerative medicine. She works in a collaborative approach with other medical professionals, providing a patient and their family a multidisciplinary team dedicated to improving function and overall well-being.
Dr. Hankenson has a strong interest in gait analysis and looks to restore functional gait through non-operative management. She also works closely with her orthopedic colleagues to help with rehabilitation needs pre- and post-surgery. She enjoys helping patients regain strength and function after strokes, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, and concussions.
“A physiatrist like myself steps in when someone has a limitation in their normal function such as after an injury, pediatric neurologic condition, stroke or spinal cord injury. I help patients recover and rebuild their lives,” she explains. “What is most important to me is getting them to the highest functional level possible.”
Dr. Hankenson says she focuses on remaining realistic and hopeful with patients. “If a patient loses all hope, that is a huge roadblock to recovery. I think it’s important to explain that a major injury means it will take time, but the body has an amazing ability to heal itself,” she says. “I like to focus on small gains and achievable goals.”
Her areas of expertise include adult and pediatric tone evaluation and management (spasticity) including Botox or chemodenervation, dystonia, and chronic migraine. She also treats general musculoskeletal conditions including non-operative management of arm, hip, shoulder, neck, low back, knee, ankle, or foot pain.