What physical therapy can do for you

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dorian Chapman
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
All too often in modern-day life, we seek out the quick fix. And all too often, the quick fix saves time yet sacrifices quality.

When it comes to physical health, especially pain, most of us are guilty of seeking out the "magic pill" to make 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. 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?"

The physical therapist at the medical clinic,assessed my situation. Because I had waited so long, my condition worsened and the likelihood of regaining full mobility before my deployment was questionable. I was determined to deploy and, most importantly, be prepared to perform my duties. 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. Ana Hall, 17th Medical Group physical therapist, 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. If you just want a list of good exercises, buy a health magazine. Physical therapists help clients push themselves to achieve successful rehabilitation," Major Hall told me.

After a month of aggressive treatment with 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.