Capt. Nathen Holdman, 88th Medical Operations Squadron staff occupational therapist, performs therapeutic dry needling on the arm of Senior Master Sgt. Jon Garcia, Physical Medicine flight chief, inside the Physical Medicine Flight at Wright-Patterson Medical Center July 17. Dry needling relieves muscle tension and is an effective treatment for chronic pain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

Key to total recovery

Physical, occupational therapists restore patient function

Providing world-class rehabilitative and preventative physical medicine to all Airmen assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the mission of the 88th Medical Group’s Physical and Occupational Therapy Office, located within Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

The Physical and Occupational Therapy Office encompasses physical therapy, occupational therapy, brace shop and chiropractic care. Senior Master Sgt. Jon Garcia, Physical Medicine flight chief, oversees resources, personnel, supplies and overall patient satisfaction.

“Putting patients through rehab is what we do to get them back to a functional point,” stated Garcia.

Physical therapy treatment refers to all musculoskeletal injuries, post-surgical intervention, and acute injuries, such as hamstring or back strains. Although physical therapy can address the whole body, Garcia says that within this clinic, physical therapists and technicians center their focus on the foot up to the neck, while most elbow, wrist and hand conditions are treated by occupational therapy.

Physical therapy utilizes extensive manual, hands-on therapy and active exercise. They also use special equipment referred to as modalities to assist in the rehab process. Cervical and lumbar traction help decompress the spine for cervical and lower back injuries. Electrical stimulation is used to re-educate muscle groups and decrease swelling and inflammation. Ultrasound mobilizes the tissue using vibration and heat to expedite the healing process.

Occupational therapy treatment specializes on the shoulders down to the fine motor skills of the fingers. This therapy helps patients enhance activities of daily living and relearn fine motor skills, like picking up keys, buttoning clothing, feeding themselves and putting on their shoes.

“Our goal is always to get the patient back to 100 percent functionality, or as close to 100 percent functional as possible,” Garcia said. “Finding what gives someone passion or purpose in life and giving them some suggested hobbies that they can do helps in the treatment process.”

All categories of beneficiaries may be referred to therapy on a space-available basis to include retirees, dependents, Reservists and Guardsmen on active orders or with a line of determination, and all foreign nationals assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB and their families; however, their main priority is the active duty population.

“We’re a small career field, approximately 286 enlisted and 165 officers Air Force wide, so it’s our priority to keep our active duty members in the fight or to minimize their time out of the work center,” said Garcia.

The office offers direct access to physical therapy for active duty members. Active duty members can book an appointment directly in Physical Therapy within 14 days of their injury, without having to go to their PCM.

“This service is rarely utilized because most don’t know they can book an appointment without a referral,” said Garcia. “Our job is to keep the human weapon system in motion.”