News: Physical therapists make every visit count
Story by Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WALTON, Afghanistan- With more than 4,000 deployed soldiers in the Ready First Brigade, and only one physical therapy clinic, the physical therapists at Forward Operating Base Walton, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, stay busy.
Lt. Col. Jason Silvernail, the brigade physical therapist, assigned to Charlie Company, 501st Brigade Support Battalion, and a native of Houston, Texas, sees hundreds of patients each month during the deployment.
“We’re one of the busiest clinics in the regional command,” said Silvernail. “Historically, physical therapy clinics are some of the busiest medical clinics in the deployed environment.”
Some physical therapy clinics see more than 150 percent more than an aid station, said Silvernail.
The clinic, which steers away from medicine, focuses on non-invasive, non-drug procedures to get soldiers back to duty as rapidly as possible.
“We try to focus on things that have been proven effective in medical studies and we know will return soldiers back to duty,” said Silvernail. “We try to cut away the extra fluff stuff and focus on the core things that are most important. We have to make every visit count.”
With Silvernail being the only physical therapist in the brigade, he is required to travel frequently, putting Spc. Christian Olivarez, the brigade physical therapy assistant, assigned to C. Co., 501st BSB, and a native of Victorville, Calif., in charge.
“I want to provide a service that’s an alternate to regular medicine,” said Olivarez. “I want to get down and help soldiers just by simply things and simple exercises that are usually overlooked, getting down to the root of the problem and returning them back to duty.”
It is no secret that a deployment wears down on a soldier’s body.
“Soldiers get aches and pains, soldiers get injuries, there’s a lot of wear and tear associated with our job,” said Silvernail. “We don’t work in a risk-free profession.”
However, clinics like this one do what they can to manage the risks, and get them diagnosed and treated so the soldiers can return to duty.
“We focus on their range of motion,” said Olivarez. “We want to get them back moving how their body is supposed to move. Then we want to work on the pain, work a little bit of strengthening as well, and return them back to duty.”
As they see patients throughout the day, the physical therapists have noticed that the two most preventable injuries that they’re seeing while in Afghanistan are injuries in and around vehicles and weight training injuries.
To help mitigate this, they are preparing a training package for soldiers on how to safely lift weights and avoid injury.
“Overall, our brigade is doing very well on its preventable injury rate,” said Silvernail. “I think our work is recognized by soldiers and commanders in terms of how quickly we are able to return Soldiers to duty. We have to make every visit count.”
“I’m treating soldiers every day and getting down to the root of the problem and returning them back to duty,” said Olivarez.