Meet Dr. Mukai
Ai Mukai, MD
Board-Certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Pain Medicine
Specializing in Interventional Spine & Electrodiagnostic Medicine
Ai Mukai, MD, is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation. She completed a fellowship focusing on advanced interventional pain procedures, resulting in board certification in pain medicine. Dr. Mukai focuses on non-surgical musculoskeletal and spine care using conservative modalities such as physical therapy and image-guided injections. She also performs electrodiagnostic studies to diagnose nerve and muscle conditions that can cause pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Dr. Mukai has been named by her peers to the Texas Super Doctors® Rising Stars list for three years in a row. She has also been named “America’s Top Physicians” since 2012, vitals.com compassionate doctor recognition and patient's choice award, and Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare since 2006.
She has presented at national conferences and authored book chapters and articles. Dr. Mukai has served as one of twelve voting members of the Board of Governors of her national association, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R). She is also a volunteer faculty member for the University of Texas Austin Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency program and has resident physicians rotating with her throughout the year.
After obtaining her bachelor's degree in psychology from Barnard College of Columbia University, she attended medical school at Penn State University. Dr. Mukai completed her physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at Northwestern University's Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (rated number one in the country on US News & World Report), earning numerous academic and leadership awards. Her pain medicine fellowship at the University of California Los Angeles focused on advanced training in non-surgical spine care and interventional procedures, including implantable devices. Her more recent interests include regenerative medicine including Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy.
In her free time, Dr. Mukai enjoys spending time with her family, mentoring and pursuing research, as well as sketching and cooking.
Nurse Practitioner for Dr. Mukai
Charisse Buchert, NP works closely with Dr. Mukai to provide the best quality care in the most efficient way possible. Charisse brings over 18 years of experience as a registered nurse and 5 years of experience as an advanced practice nurse. She completed a rigorous curriculum and obtained a Master's of Science in Nursing at the University of North Carolina. She also wrote her Master's Project on therapeutic pain assessment. Having Charisse allows Dr. Mukai to accommodate patients in pain as soon as possible.
Dr. Mukai's Personal Statement
Thank you for your interest in Texas Orthopedics. I want to take the opportunity to explain a little about my philosophy and style of medicine. I am a physiatrist, or a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Since I am not a surgeon, my focus is on getting patients better without surgery. I also know when my patients should go to surgery, and I try to explain those situations when they arise. I am blessed to have many surgical specialists in the group, so when you do need surgery, I know which surgeon to send you to for that particular body part or procedure.
My main goal is to focus on what you want to be able to do in your life - whether it is playing with your children or being able to play golf without as much pain. I believe that you, the patient, deserve to learn what is going on in your body so you can make the best decision. What is right for one patient may not be right for another. I want my patients to choose how aggressive or conservative to be and help decide on the most appropriate treatment plan.
Texas Orthopedics believes in a team approach, and part of a team approach is also working with other physicians outside the group. I make sure your primary care doctors and other relevant specialists are "in the loop" about your condition and how we are treating it. I try to use as little medication for as short a time period as possible because of potential interactions and side effects. My advanced practice nurse Charisse is an integral part of my clinical team and she and I are in constant communication about our patients, developing and following through on diagnostic and treatment plans. Having Charisse allows me to spend the time needed during our initial visit to have a comprehensive conversation. Charisse knows when to get me involved during a subsequent visit, via your request or her request.
The most important part of treating muscle, bone, and nerve conditions is making the correct diagnosis. I spend most of my time during your first visit listening to your history and performing a good physical exam. I augment that information with X-rays and advanced imaging as needed. I am lucky to have X-ray and MRI facilities available at Texas Orthopedics, which allows me to communicate with the radiology technician to get the most helpful information possible.
I also provide injections in the office under ultrasound guidance, as well as injections in the surgery center under special X-ray guidance. The injections under X-ray are reserved for injections that need special attention and care, such as injections near the spine or when the diagnosis is unclear. I routinely examine people under X-ray to identify the painful area before injecting them if the diagnosis is unclear. I also use diagnostic testing like EMG/NCS, which is a test to see how well your muscles and nerves are working, to give you information about the severity and location of the injury.
I strongly believe in individualized care and my physical therapists feel the same way. I like working with the therapists at Texas Orthopedics because they are passionate about what they do and we are in constant dialogue about how to best treat a patient. I see this as a team effort, evaluating and treating you the best way we know how, so you get better in the shortest amount of time possible. I don't believe in a "cookie cutter approach" for physical therapy. An individualized approach allows you to have less number of sessions with maximal improvement.
I frequently tell my patients that finding the right therapist, or the right physician for that matter, is like dating. You have to be able to trust each other and get something positive out of the relationship. I hope that I am able to help you play an active role in healing yourself, and I thank you for considering me as your physician.