Face of Defense: Physical Therapists Heal Troops

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06/07/2012 09:20 AM CDT

Face of Defense: Physical Therapists Heal Troops

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tabitha Bartley
Marine Corps Base Quantico

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., June 7, 2012 - The demanding exercises that are part of the physical therapy regimen at the Officer Candidates School's branch clinic here help to keep Marines healthy and in tip-top shape, Angelique Ruiz, a civilian physical therapist at the clinic, said.

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Marine Corps Capt. Anna Reves runs on an exercise apparatus during her physical therapy session at the Officer Candidates School's branch clinic on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 1, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tabitha Bartley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The best part of the job is getting to talk to people," Ruiz said. "It's a very personal job [and] all day I'm communicating with people -- candidates to active duty enlisted to officers to other medical staff."

Physical therapists and technicians work together in treating each other's patients, she said.

"Good communication is how people get taken care of the best," Ruiz said. "Not only with the patient, but also with the patients of other providers, so they are getting the care they need."

Most of the injuries the therapists treat, Ruiz said, are ankle sprains, injuries after surgery, post-operative patients, shoulder injuries and lower-back injuries.

"The types of injuries we see are normal because of what it takes to be a Marine," she said. "Marines have a number of physically demanding and physically taxing exercises such as the physical fitness test, combat fitness test and carrying heavy packs."

The physical therapists and technicians treat these injuries with stabilization, stretching, strengthening activities and functional training, Ruiz said.

"They understand my job as a Marine," said Marine Corps Capt. Anna Reves, a physical therapy patient at the clinic. "I did physical therapy out in town for a few weeks and they are just geared towards getting office workers back to work as opposed to here, where the therapists get you all the way to being fully athletic again."

"We watch them while they are training," Ruiz said. "We see how they train and we have the opportunity to see Marines throughout the day."

"We understand what Marines have been doing while deployed and what their responsibilities are every day, even when you're not deployed, so we can try and mimic those activities while we take you through the rehab program," she added.

Ruiz said the success of a physical therapy regimen depends on the work of both the therapist and the patient. She thinks Marines are particularly well-suited to be healing teammates.

"The good thing about Marines is that they want to get better and that's one of the biggest keys to physical therapy," Ruiz said. "Marines are motivated to get better. They have goals, they want to deploy, they want to pick up, and they want to go to their schools so they do the exercises that they should be doing."

It's difficult "when you have someone who cannot get over a hurdle," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Roman, a physical therapy technician at the clinic. "Most of the time it's because their body is holding them back, not from lack of the patient trying.

"For me, the best part of the job is the satisfactions of seeing someone go from a complete zero of a post-operation [physical state] to getting back to doing their job," Roman added.

Receiving physical therapy treatment has "been a great experience here," Reves said.

"They are always patient, and paying attention and dedicated," she said of the clinic's staff. "It's always a great atmosphere, which is nice when you have to come in and deal with something like an injury that you aren't real excited about."