Military life can be extremely demanding on service members as well as on their families. Soldiers must devote enormous amounts of time and energy to their duties, even while stationed at home, and their families are often coping with long work hours or deployments. Then, if the unthinkable should occur and a service member is dealt a serious injury, daily difficulties can become nearly impossible as the struggle of healing begins. February 8 of this year, the sixth annual Operation Care Fair, held in the McChord Field Club at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), was organized with just these travails in mind. The invitation sent to vendors late last year explains the fair was intended to “focus on the softer side of wellness,” presenting a wide range of positive mechanisms for stress relief from pampering and skin care to alternative healing and cooking. One of the most compelling of the vendors to offer care was Advanced Integrative Movement (AIM) Physical Therapy.
AIM Physical Therapy is no stranger to the military. Treating injured serviced members has always been a priority. While they had a Licensed Massage Practitioner on staff, AIM accepted referrals directly from the Wounded Warrior Project for service members in need of massage therapy at no charge to the soldier. The challenge AIM intended to meet for Operation Care Fair was to deliver meaningful treatment and advice to hundreds of individuals during the short five hours of the fair. Additionally, Susan Shivers, marketing manager for AIM, explains that, having provided chair massages at their booth at the fair in 2013, AIM was seeking to offer something different this year, something distinct while still treating patients with the holistic, full body approach in which they specialize.
Laura Rosado, the clinical director at the AIM DuPont clinic, worked the booth at this fair, treating and advising patients. AIM chose to feature cervical traction, lumbar traction, hip mobilization and scapular mobilization. Rosado explains that these stretching techniques for the neck, back, hips, and shoulders “offer the most benefit if you’re doing something quick, which is what we were wanting to do. I wanted to work with as many people as possible… with those techniques, like traction and mobilization, you can kind of get the most bang for your buck in a small amount of time.”
By keeping allotted time for each patient brief, many were able to experience a small but poignant sample of the benefits AIM has to offer. Rosado explains that at their DuPont clinic, almost all of their patients are military affiliated, but generally not service members themselves. Retirees, children, and spouses all find comfort at AIM, for anything from hip replacements, to sports injuries, to pregnancy related issues. Rosado summarizes, “We see a little bit of everything in this clinic.”
In particular, Rosado stresses that the military spouses are often the least likely to seek relief, yet are often the ones who need it the most. She explains, “you’d be surprised at how many military spouses are just living with pain and other severe issues.” With their partners deployed and now suddenly single, spouses may not have much help and so “they’ve been dealing with pain issues for a long time and just coming and seeing our booth at the fair was just a little bit of exposure to get them to [see that] maybe they can do something about it.”
Those wounded by war must be given special consideration as well. Rosado describes, “their injuries are often traumatic from vehicle rollovers, explosions, and things like that. So that’s very much different from dealing with a spouse who might have chronic pain from less traumatic injuries, something that’s just gotten more and more painful over time.” The stretching options AIM provided at the fair gave effective physical therapy with as little discomfort as possible. When treating traumatic injury, this is of particular significance as pain management after trauma is key. Rosado states, “We want to address the pain and get them moving …we want to work in ways that are not painful.”
In addition to the stretching offered at the fair, Rosado “tried to give people tips—postural education, observations, things like that. If there was enough time, I could show a stretch they could do to add to their exercise routine that could help address the pain that they’re having. I tried to give as much information as I could.”
Based on the turn out and participation, AIM Physical Therapy had ample opportunity to spread the word. Gloria Tomczewski, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) special events assistant at JBLM, reports that more than 750 people attended Operation Care Fair this year, surpassing the numbers from last year. Rosado was busy during the entire event treating some of those individuals, and she says that many of those were military spouses.
Working with soldiers and their families certainly confronts caregivers with exceptional challenges as each type of patient embodies diverse therapeutic requirements. AIM Physical Therapy meets those challenges head-on by providing compassionate care that will continue to address those particular needs.