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Physical therapy team gets ahead of injuries

Physical Therapy

Airmen assigned to the 22nd Medical Operations Squadron’s Physical Therapy Clinic work with patients Nov. 21, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Patients are given a one-on-one personal care from the physical therapy team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alan Ricker)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- When Airmen suffer from illness or injury, the road to recovery can be a difficult process, but the 22nd Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy staff here is trying to prevent these injuries from ever developing with their proactive outreach programs.

“While diagnosing, we began seeing a lot of the same injuries—a lot of lower back pain, knee pain and shoulder pain, so we decided to do something about it,” said Capt. Teressa Petosky, 22nd MDOS physical therapy flight commander.

Petosky and her team began reaching out and partnering with squadrons to preemptively tackle the issue. They opened a satellite clinic in the maintenance group, and began traveling to units and performing open screenings for Airmen to have a forum to ask muscular-skeletal questions.

“Our leadership has been awesome in giving us the freedom to go out and get involved with the squadrons directly,” said Tech. Sgt. Sean Devereaux, 22nd MDOS physical therapy flight noncommissioned officer in charge. “Most people don’t realize that we’re not just here to rehab injuries, we also spot negative repetitious movements and educate Airmen—which equals prevention.”

Another proactive strategy Petosky has been working on is attending physical training sessions with individual squadrons and making it a focus to properly train their physical training leaders.

“We’ll train their PTLs to change their fitness program to reflect injury prevention,” said Petosky. “We focus on correcting improper form and getting units to diversify their workouts for different populations. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that when you tailor PT sessions, it’s not just for the 19 year old Airman who just came in, it’s also for the 45-year-old who is about to get out.”

Petosky also began revamping the Get Fit Program for Airmen who fail to meet PT standards. She developed a five-day program for success and trained the unit PTLs on how to carry it out.

“I noticed that a lot of their PT is very lateral, basic push-ups and sit-ups and they don’t cover a lot of muscle groups,” said Petosky. “The new program is two days a week of core and hip strengthening, one day of interval training, one day of a longer run day and the last day is yoga, because people just don’t stretch enough.”

The physical therapy team fulfills a vital role in helping injured Airmen get back on their feet when they do get injured, but the hope is that these strategic programs be a preemptive step in combating future issues.

“We’re trying to prevent people from coming to physical therapy,” said Petosky. “We want to stop it on the front end, to prevent that injury from every happening, rather than feel like we’re just a band-aid.”