Clinic's message: Maintain your body
November 3, 2004
The following clarification to this story ran in the Nov. 6 edition of Stars and Stripes: "A Nov. 3 article about a Yongsan Garrison preventive medicine clinic included a photograph and quotations from Dr. Phillip Yoo, a chiropractor. Dr. Yoo runs a private clinic in Seoul and was at the 121st General Hospital as an invited practitioner."
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Soldiers constantly are performing preventative maintenance on their vehicles and weapons to ensure they’re in top working order. There’s no reason they shouldn’t do the same to their own bodies.
That was the message medical officials imparted at the 121st General Hospital’s first Total Fitness Clinic, held last week at the Yongsan Garrison hospital.
More than 100 soldiers and civilians signed up for appointments, at which health professionals conducted a free battery of diagnostic tests designed to help prevent injuries before they happen.
“The whole point of this is to assess now, and prevent problems later,” said Maj. Erica Clarkson, chief of physical therapy at the 121.
By giving feedback on things that could help or hinder future health — such as posture, running form, balance — medical officials say they can help prevent unnecessary injuries or help cure chronic pains.
And many of the free tests offered during the clinic are simple ways to diagnose what could be a more serious problem, Clarkson said.
Take, for instance, the balance test. Participants were challenged to stand one-legged on an extremely unstable, discus-shaped rubber pad. The challenge was to see if they could hold their balance for 10 seconds. Just 10 percent of people can keep their balance for the full 10 seconds, the physical therapists said, but even those who don’t succeed can be given feedback.
A complete lack of balance could indicate a problem with their equilibrium or, simply a lack of natural balance.
At another clinic station, Dr. Phillip Yoo was offering posture analysis with a digital camera and a computer. The charts, compiled by comparing the slope of certain areas of the body (shoulders, hips, head), are intended to help participants improve their posture and prevent muscular or nervous-system injuries.
The most common posture problems, Yoo said, include a slight tilting forward of the head and shoulders, frequently found among people who work on computers or in offices. That particular form of bad posture can lead to back and neck problems.
To help prevent it, people should “imagine a helium balloon attached directly above their heads,” Yoo said.
By holding the head upright and keeping the spine as straight as possible, many common maladies can be avoided, Yoo said.
Other tests during the free clinic analyzed flexibility; “gait analysis” to see how peoples’ strides, when walking and running, might hinder their muscles and bones; and foot analysis to recommend appropriate athletic shoes.
Other health clinic stations analyzed simple data directly tied to health: body fat, blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation and strength. Taken in totality and with the other measures, clinicians said, participants got a complete picture of their health.
Medical officials say awareness of these health factors has benefits down the road.
“If we see something wrong, if we recognize the symptoms of something larger, we can recommend a course of treatment,” said Clarkson. “It’s always better to catch something before it becomes a serious problem.”