Yokota’s Physical Therapy

Yokota Air Base, Japan --

In the one room facility, the physical therapy department at Yokota’s hospital stand three skilled members who are devoted to ensure injured personnel are getting the treatment, knowledge and motivation they need to heal properly.

“With only one physical therapist and two technicians, this is one of the busiest bases I have worked at,” said Technical Sgt. Harvey Tagudin, 374th Surgical Support Squadron physical therapist NCOIC. “On average we have about 13 to 14 appointments per day.”

With Yokota Air Base’s high operations tempo it’s crucial to keep everyone on Team Yokota physically ready for the mission at hand.

“Our mission is to rehabilitate patients,” said Staff Sgt. Sydney J. Vidaurri, 374 SSS physical therapist. “We get them back to doing what they enjoy and passing their PT test after an injury or surgery.”

The physical therapy staff use a multitude of tools to handle any patients who walk through the door, including: an anti-gravity treadmill, electrotherapy machines, Nintendo Wii, various resistance tools to improve strength and others to help improve balance or mobility.

“The people here are great and help you get better,” said Senior Airman Nicholas A. Hawkins, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron debrief. “Your sore and don’t want to move but they push you to get better.”

After having a cadaver ligament transplant surgery Hawkins has been coming to physical therapy twice a week since his surgery.

“Everyone’s favorite part is the compression ice machine,” said Vidaurri. “The machine compresses muscles and ices them down after a session of physical therapy.”

The patients also receive homework from the physical therapist of custom exercises designed to improve range of motion and strength for their specific rehabilitation needs.

“A patients recover nearly all matters on if they are doing the work at home,” said Tagudin. “We can tell when someone is not doing their home exercises and it usually takes them a lot longer to fully recover.”

Tagudin and Vidaurri spend a lot of their time talking with patients to help them stay relaxed and motivated during their physical therapy sessions. According to their patients their friendly bedside manner brightens up their day.

“They are so friendly, I always look forward to coming in,” Staff Sgt. Matthew Tempest, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion craftsman and physical therapy patient. “Some of the stuff they do hurts, but their attitudes are awesome and motivate you to do better.”

With the exception of surgery patients the physical therapy department primarily works with people who have injured themselves through overuse or misuse of their body by poor exercise habits.

According to Tagudin, there are three main areas people need to focus on when working out if they want to avoid having to come to physical therapy for exercise related injuries.

-First is proper rest and recovery after a workout, if your body doesn’t have time to recover between work outs it can increase your chances of injury and overuse problems.

-Second is proper exercise mechanics, it is important to research and know how to perform exercises properly to avoid injury.

-Third is to listen to your body, if something feels wrong don’t ‘tuff it out’ and wait to see a physician; catching something early can mean the difference between a couple weeks vs a year of recovery time.

The knowledge patients gain from the physical therapy staff on injury prevention is something they can take home or to the work place to potentially help prevent others from injury.

“Learning about different injury prevention techniques has been helpful not just for me but for the other guys in our shop,” said Technical Sgt. Eric Lundeen, 374th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology section chief. “When we are doing PT together, I can help prevent others from making mistakes that might cause them pain or problems.” 

The physical therapy department will work with units on base to help promote career specific injury prevention tactics. If units are interested please coordinate with the physical therapy department.