What could physical therapy do for you?

Airman 1st Class Sean Devereaux, 17th Medical Support Squadron physical therapy journeyman, performs physical therapy via ultrasound on an injured knee ligament of Capt. Lara Kalin-Cristofori Oct. 29 at 17th Medical Group Clinic on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. "Our clinic treats approximately 400 to 450 patients during a month," said Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, base physical therapy clinic NCO in charge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez)

Airman 1st Class Sean Devereaux, 17th Medical Support Squadron physical therapy journeyman, performs physical therapy via ultrasound on an injured knee ligament of Capt. Lara Kalin-Cristofori Oct. 29 at 17th Medical Group Clinic on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. "Our clinic treats approximately 400 to 450 patients during a month," said Tech. Sgt. Charles Alloway, base physical therapy clinic NCO in charge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- All too often in modern life, we seek out the quick fix. And all too often, the quick fix saves time yet sacrifices quality.

When it comes to bodily health, and especially pain, most of us are guilty of seeking out the "magic pill" to make our symptoms go away rather than concentrating on the problem generating the discomfort.

In 2007, I was tasked to deploy to Iraq. Coincidentally, I started experiencing severe pain in my hip, apparently sports related. But being the stubborn person that I am, I tried to ignore it and continued with my daily activities and physical training as best as I could.

As the pain worsened, I started to grow concerned. I had so much to do before my deployment; I just didn't have time for pain! I knew I would be attending a month-long combat skills training course hosted by the Army and my concerns deepened about how I would be able to perform.

Then reality set in. I was due to deploy to Iraq with a high-speed Army Special Forces unit. My job was going to require that I stay on the go and be able to hold my own in a combat zone. It was time to stop popping ibuprofen and get some expert medical treatment. After being evaluated by my primary care manager at the base clinic, I was referred to physical therapy.

"Oh great!" I remember thinking. "Voodoo medicine! Why can't they just give me a pill to make this go away?"

Maj. Ana Hall, the physical therapist assigned to the 17th Medical Group, assessed my situation. Because I had waited so long, my condition had worsened and the likelihood of regaining full mobility before my deployment was questionable. But I was determined to deploy and, most importantly, be prepared to perform my duties. And since there seemed to be no "magic pill" this time, physical therapy became my only hope.

"I evaluate the client, diagnose the problem, then treat it," said Maj. Hall, pointing out that physical therapy deals with sports and musculoskeletal injuries. "My job is to get you back to work." As for the "magic pill," Maj. Hall said making the pain go away does not mean the problem is gone.

"When you have pain, something went wrong," she said, stressing the importance of focusing on the cause of the pain for successful treatment.

"Every treatment plan is unique," she added. "If you just want a list of good exercises, buy a health magazine. Physical therapists help clients push themselves to achieve successful rehabilitation."

After a month of aggressive treatment of stretching and ultrasound technology, my pain had diminished almost completely. In fact, after only a few sessions, the pain had been reduced more than any time since the injury.

With the pain gone, I was able to focus on the important training I received before my deployment. Months later, as I silently knelt in the desert under a moonless night sky awaiting the signal to move forward with my team, it occurred to me how much impact physical therapy had on my ability to operate in such an austere environment. "Voodoo medicine" or not, I was glad that it worked.

"Making sure people get fit and rehabilitating people so they can deploy are two of our major functions," explained Maj. Hall.

The Physical Therapy clinic holds lectures open to all base personnel concerning proper running techniques and ways to prevent back injuries. For more information about the lectures, or what the Physical Therapy Clinic can do for you, call 654-3632.