Physical therapy clinic: Keeping servicemembers mobile

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy NCOIC, stretches a patient's ankle to help the patient recover from a severe ankle sprain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Connie Hempel)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy NCOIC, stretches a patient's ankle to help the patient recover from a severe ankle sprain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Connie Hempel)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy NCOIC, uses a warming ultrasound machine to relax muscles in a patient's ankle. The physical therapy staff sees and treats almost all musculoskeletal injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Connie Hempel)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy NCOIC, uses a warming ultrasound machine to relax muscles in a patient's ankle. The physical therapy staff sees and treats almost all musculoskeletal injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Connie Hempel)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy NCOIC, helps a patient with ankle movements after suffering from a sprain. The majority of injuries treated by the physical therapy staff inlcude ankle injuries, shin splints and knee pain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Connie Hempel)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy NCOIC, helps a patient with ankle movements after suffering from a sprain. The majority of injuries treated by the physical therapy staff inlcude ankle injuries, shin splints and knee pain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Connie Hempel)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- From knee pains and shin splints, to ankle injuries and Plantar fasciitis, the 17th Medical Group Physical Therapy Clinic can help you with your aches and pains and get you on your way again.

In the past, patients who walked through their doors were referred by their primary care manager or were recovering from surgery downtown. Although permanent party members must still get a referral, students can now be seen during physical therapy's sick call hours which corresponds with the student clinic sick call - 6:30-9:30 a.m. - taking less time away from training.

"We try to keep the students and instructors in the classroom, but this is a challenging part of our job," said Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, physical therapy NCOIC.

The staff of three - with almost 25 years combined experience - sees about 500 patients a month working nine to 10 hours a day aiming to return servicemembers to full duty status as soon as possible. Depending on the injury, a patient usually undergoes six to 12 weeks of treatment.

"We do our best to serve the base population," Sergeant Alloway said. "We keep our eyes on the prize, and that prize is getting those individuals in physical therapy back to the life that they love."

Seeing different injuries come through their doors, the physical therapy chief must first set a goal for the patient. Through some monitored exercises and behavioral modifications, the staff then works together with each patient to help him achieve that goal.

"The goals are a combination of desired treatment outcomes and the patient's input," Sergeant Alloway said.

One example he provided was someone with an ankle sprain.

When a patient comes to physical therapy with an ankle sprain and he is a marathon runner, we focus on balance and getting the patient back to full range of motion," he said. "The walk-to-run program we use helps reach the long-term goal of returning to marathon running."

Seeing patients reach their goal is rewarding for the physical therapy staff.

"Although we joke about the pain we put patients through, working with them and seeing them improve before our eyes is an amazing feeling," Sergeant Alloway said. "Physical Therapy is not about pain. It's about getting the patient back to activity. Although some of the things we do are quite painful, it serves a purpose."

Airman 1st Class Sage Summer, 17th MDG Physical Therapy Clinic, agreed and said that getting to know each patient is critical to helping them accomplish their goal.
"I like to take time to learn what the patients' characteristics are," she said. "It helps us shape our approach to patient care. Every patient is different, and we have to adjust to each patient. It can be frustrating at times, when a patient is not dedicated to their rehab. It is very rewarding when the patient takes physical therapy seriously."