News: Aches and pains: Physical therapist return service members back to the fight
Story by Spc. Cody Barber
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Anyone who has traversed the harsh terrains of Afghanistan knows that it can take its toll on the human body and sometimes there are certain pains that just won’t go away.
To help get rid of those pains and get service members back into the fight are physical therapists with the 59th Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Squadron at Bagram Air Field.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Sean Wilson, a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., is a physical therapist at the Craig Joint-Theater Hospital. He diagnoses and treats individuals with illnesses or injuries.
“Physical therapy is when we try to get people back to a level of functioning where they can accomplish the mission,” said Wilson. “That’s especially important here in theater for these warriors. They go out on missions and they receive injuries or they have some deficiencies that need to be addressed and I help get them back into the fight.”
He treats coalition forces personnel, civilians, foreign nationals and sometimes prisoners.
“It’s [important] for me to make sure everyone gets the best care possible whoever they are,” said Wilson.
When patients arrive they are evaluated, diagnosed and then interventions are used to treat patients. Interventions include therapeutic exercise, functional training, manual therapy techniques, assistive and adaptive devices, and equipment.
Lower back pain is the most common injury treated because it’s caused by numerous reasons such as improvised explosive device blast or carrying heavy gear, said Wilson. They also treat for neck injuries, joint pains, sprains, strains, burns and amputations.
“I do the assessment to figure out what kind of injury they have and I get them immediate intervention, “said Wilson. “We then try to lower the pain with manual labor and then we teach them how to strengthen that particular injury and give them some home exercise programs.”
Home exercises allow patients to maintain their fitness and treat their injuries at their duty location. Service members don’t have access to a physical therapist on a timely basis and giving them a developed plan helps to make sure they stay healthy, said Wilson.
Being the primary physical therapist on Bagram Air Field, he treats an average of 60 to 80 patients per week and Wilson knows this couldn’t be done without the help of a team effort.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lerma Orara, a native of Zembales, Philippines, and 59th Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Squadron physical therapist technician, helps to make sure the plans that are prescribed to the patients are implemented.
“He sees the patients first and evaluates them,” said Orara. “He then prescribes them a treatment plan and I execute the plan.”
One of the patients, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Poupard, a native of Franklinville, N.J., and egress mechanic with the 177th Fighter Wing, went to see the therapist for his lower back pain.
“They did a chiropractor move that popped my back and relieved the pain,” said Poupard. “They also stretched it out really well and gave me some exercises and with my back feeling better I can focus more on my work and return to the mission.”
Wilson says that about 90 percent of his patients notice an immediate decrease in pain and an increase in function once a treatment is completed.
“I definitely feel like we’re making a huge impact,” said Wilson. “We are helping out with the overall mission by keeping warriors in the fight.”