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Physical therapy Airmen provide healing touch

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) -- With today's Air Force being the smallest it has ever been, mitigating lost days due to injury is of the utmost importance. Seeing a range of injuries from wrist pain to post-surgery recovery, the 4th Medical Operations Squadron’s physical therapy technicians aim to get their patients back to good health so they can continue the mission.

"As a physical therapist assistant, I get to see a greater outcome," said Staff Sgt. Amber Coley, a 4th MDOS physical therapy technician. "I help individuals heal. Depending on what they come in with injury-wise, I get them from nothing to something; whether it be walking or throwing again, either postoperatively or preventatively."

More than 1,440 patients receive treatment at the physical therapy clinic each month. Even with a full appointment schedule, the three technicians currently assigned to the clinic provide a healing touch to those in need.

"I see about 15 (patients) per day. It depends on what's going on that week, but (I see) anywhere from 120 to maybe 220 (per week) and that's just per technician," Coley said. "Without physical therapy, a lot of our patients wouldn't be able to continue doing the work that they do or normal daily activities."

Coley explained that physical therapy is a process and most injuries require multiple sessions to get Airmen back to full health. The goal, however, is to increase mobility enough for patients to safely and comfortably resume duties with the ultimate objective of getting them fully rehabilitated.

To achieve this goal, technicians use equipment and exercises, such as the anti-gravity treadmill and balancing exercises, as well as other therapeutic techniques, like dry needling and foam rollers, to alleviate pain and strengthen muscles and tendons. Other methods include dumbbells, exercise bungee cords and aerobics steps along with icing and heating the affected area.

Senior Airman Temika Johnson, a 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament support technician, frequently visits the clinic after recent surgery on a knee.

"It has helped me regain 70 percent mobility in my left knee since having surgery on it in early September," Johnson said. "They have allowed me to walk almost completely unaided by crutches or a cane. I can now bend my left knee to almost 80 degrees from the first reported 52 degrees back in October. I get ice therapy as well as physical therapy to help with swelling, and they provide me with at-home exercises to help increase strength and dexterity."

The physical therapy technicians at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base help with more than just physical pain and injuries, they also assist patients by giving them moral support.

"I love my job mostly because I can see the task or job through from start to finish, especially postoperative patients," said Master Sgt. Shannon Stoner, the 4th MDOS medical services flight chief. "We have to give a little tough love to get the patients back to their goal, but it is inspiring to see them pass their next physical training test or run that marathon."

Johnson noted the dedication and care technicians give their patients is evident through the time and effort they distribute.

"I definitely suggest that others who are dealing with physical injuries get into physical therapy as soon as possible," Johnson said. "Their goal is to help people reduce pain and increase strength in order for people to heal."