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Physical therapist strengthens EOD mission readiness

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tyler Kochlany, 39th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, uses a foam roller during a physical therapy session at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Feb. 2, 2018. Slowly rolling over various areas of your body will break-up adhesions and scar tissue, speeding up the healing and recovery process after a workout. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Octavius Thompson)

Story by Airman 1st Class Octavius Thompson

39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

“We need to prevent injuries by going out and working with Airmen and seeing what their job is by performing their duties,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dennis Shay, 39th Medical Group physical therapist. “I can speculate why Airmen have injuries, but until I go out and wear their gear for several hours, I won’t know.”

Once the physical therapist has embedded with the unit, he looks for specific factors that will trigger or cause injuries while participating in everyday activities. This allows the doctors to de-termine if the Airmen need exercises to treat and manage pain, or if they are performing move-ments improperly.

The proposal to work alongside the EOD flight was part of the medical group’s focus areas of performing full spectrum medical readiness and integrated operational support to ensure proper care is provided.

According to Shay, this plan is not the first of its kind, but will hopefully become a standard across the U.S. Air Force.

Having a physical therapist fully understand what they do allows the EOD Airmen the oppor-tunity to learn how to treat their own injuries and determine whether or not the exercises and techniques do or do not work, so they can seek further help.

“The exercises are general templates for certain areas, but if they are experiencing pain they should see if they help,” said Shay. “After trying the exercises, with no results, is when they should come to the medical group.”

This new approach could potentially eliminate the reactive method, where physical therapists treat patients as they develop pain and other symptoms that keep them away from their job.

“The exercises that we were taught by the physical therapist helps me manage all the stress that I put on my body,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gershom Slonim, 39th CES EOD techni-cian. “I have never been a part of a physical therapy targeted session, but I think it is important for them to help us treat our injuries.”

The physical therapist will continuously monitor the improvement in profile rates of the unit, physical fitness scores, missed work days due to injuries and visits to their primary care provid-ers.

As EOD is not the only career field that has a physically demand job, sometimes more than their bodies can handle, Shay stressed that all Airmen be aware of work space injuries that may limit their ability to efficiently perform within their unit.

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