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Preventing musculoskeletal injuries could save AF $1.5 billion annually

Master Sgt. Dawn Traurig, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, demonstrates the use of a resistance band March 16, 2015, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Resistance band training is often used by physical therapy to treat patients. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicolo J. Daniello)

Master Sgt. Dawn Traurig, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, demonstrates the use of a resistance band March 16, 2015, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Resistance band training is often used by physical therapy to treat patients. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicolo J. Daniello)

Staff Sgt. Sean Devereaux, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy craftsman, places the foot of Master Sgt. Dawn Traurig, 92nd MDOS superintendent, into the handle of a resistance training band March 16, 2015, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The resistance training bands have many uses as well as helping patients of physical therapy, they are also useful for at home body weight workouts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicolo J. Daniello)

Staff Sgt. Sean Devereaux, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy craftsman, places the foot of Master Sgt. Dawn Traurig, 92nd MDOS superintendent, into the handle of a resistance training band March 16, 2015, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The resistance training bands have many uses as well as helping patients of physical therapy, they are also useful for at home body weight workouts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicolo J. Daniello)

Master Sgt. Dawn Traurig, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, grips a resistance training band March 16, 2015, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The resistance training bands have multi-use exercises such as lunges and body weight rows. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicolo J. Daniello)

Master Sgt. Dawn Traurig, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, grips a resistance training band March 16, 2015, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The resistance training bands have multi-use exercises such as lunges and body weight rows. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicolo J. Daniello)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- There is a rising concern affecting a number of military members that is costing the U.S. Air Force approximately $1.5 billion annually: musculoskeletal injuries.

Musculoskeletal injuries consist of any muscle-related injury such as shin splints or ankle injuries - both of which can sometimes be attributed to the physical nature of military life.

"There are a lot of factors that play into what causes musculoskeletal injuries, such as prior injuries," said Will Saultes, 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron health promotion program coordinator. "But, the most common injuries we see are lower back, hips, lower legs, knees and ankles."

"Thirty to 40 percent of injuries the 92nd Medical Group sees people for are musculoskeletal injuries," said Lt. Col. Troy McGill, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy flight commander.

To combat these injuries, there are multiple resources available to squadrons or individuals at Fairchild.

The Health Promotions Office can assist squadrons with small-flight running clinics, Saultes said. Airmen's movements are looked at to assess what is causing problems, and then recommendations are made on how to improve their movement.

"Pain is telling you something. Pain is telling you there's a problem," said Saultes.

Running clinics are not the only option for Airmen dealing with musculoskeletal injuries. Physical therapy is also available on base.

Going through a primary care manager can take a lot of time, sometimes resulting in patients not being seen for nearly three weeks after their injury occurred, McGill said. This is part of the reason why Fairchild has a walk-in physical therapy clinic available.

The walk-in clinic is every weekday from 8 to 11 a.m. at the physical therapy office located on the third floor of the installation's medical treatment facility.

McGill and Saultes have plans beyond the running clinics or the walk-in clinic that move toward preventing injuries.

"We want to start a Human Performance Clinic," said McGill. "The program has been tried at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and has shown a great success."

According to McGill, who was part of the Human Performance Clinic at Eglin before arriving at Fairchild, the clinic will be an all-encompassing clinic to focus on 'pre-habilitation,' rather than re-habilitation, to teach the military members how to prevent injuries.

The program has shown to reduce profile rates and has reduced injury rates, said McGill.

"That's the goal. To teach people how to use their body properly," he said.

For more information on what the Health Promotion Office has to offer, call (509) 247-5590, and for more information on the walk-in clinic, call physical therapy at (509) 247-5882.