SHAW AIR FORCE BASE — The 20th Medical Group, physical therapists work every day helping airmen and soldiers at Shaw Air Force Base restore mobility and strength so they are able to continue doing their jobs to their fullest ability and accomplish the mission.
"The purpose of therapy is to restores long-term function and prevent future disabilities," said Maj. Justin Martin, 20th MDG physical therapy flight commander and a native of Fairfield, Idaho. "We try to keep the whole Air Force good to fight. We are trying to keep maintainers on the flight line, pilots in the cockpits and everyone else doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. We help patients with their pain and we want to restore the mobility of their joints."
Physical therapy restores mobility with activities like therapeutic exercises, functional training, deep soft tissue massage, and physical modalities such as electrotherapy and ultrasound which are pain-controlling treatments, according to American Physical Therapy Association. Therapist may provide instruction in exercise, proper body mechanics, and other injury prevention and wellness topics.
"Physical therapy helps any muscle-skeletal injury from strains to sprains to any degenerative joint," said Capt. Laura Henry, 20th MDG chief physical therapist and a native Benicia, Calif. "It can help anyone from small children to the elderly. People who have a general workout plan just know they are working out of the body. We, on the other hand, are giving you a specific set of exercises or stretches that are specific to your diagnosis."
Richard Cox, 20th MDG medical readiness manager and a native of Beckley, W.Va., is one of the patients at the clinic currently. Five weeks ago he had a total knee replacement and has been in physical therapy the last three weeks strengthening his leg and knee.
"There was no cartilage or anything in it and it was worn out and no other surgery would help it so they just replaced it," he said. "The injury tremendously [impacted my life]. I do a lot of walking and standing. I deploy members and I handle all the emergency management for the 20th MDG so I have to be out and about a lot. I can’t do my job if I can’t walk."
Three times a week Cox has a 90-minute session with the physical therapists and had only good things to say about his time in therapy and his therapists.
Cox said, "My physical therapists helped me tremendously because their knowledge of what to do for my injury helped me get better a month ahead of schedule."
Physical therapists’ knowledge and skill to care for a patient is gained through years of work.
All physical therapists are required to receive a graduate degree -either a master’s degree or a clinical doctorate - from an accredited physical therapist program before taking the national licensure examination that allows them to practice. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices and must be renewed every two years according to the APTA.
"They are trusted health care professionals with extensive clinical experience who examine, diagnose, and then prevent or treat conditions that limit the body’s ability to move and function in daily life."