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Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Easley, a board-certified physical therapist, applies electric stimuation to the shoulder of Naval Air Facilty Atsugi resident Cathy Knudson during a treatment. This fall, Easley began offering physical therapy services at Atsugi's Branch Medical Clinic, saving patients there a drive to another treatment facility.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Easley, a board-certified physical therapist, applies electric stimuation to the shoulder of Naval Air Facilty Atsugi resident Cathy Knudson during a treatment. This fall, Easley began offering physical therapy services at Atsugi's Branch Medical Clinic, saving patients there a drive to another treatment facility. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — Although she needed physical therapy after an injury, Atsugi resident Cathy Knudson never could seem to find the time to drive to nearby Camp Zama to see a therapist.

Without their own physical therapist, Atsugi residents had to drive either to Zama — about 20 minutes away — or Yokosuka Naval Base, an hour away.

But thanks to an initiative by a physical therapist assigned to a schools program — with support from Atsugi’s Branch Health Clinic and U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, of which the clinic is a part — residents at Atsugi now have a physical therapist at their clinic two days a week.

“It makes it a lot easier if you can do it here,” Knudson said. “It’s much more convenient. A lot of people are happy it’s here.”

Lt. Cmdr Sean Easley is a national board-certified physical therapist who recently completed his Ph.D. in orthopedic physical therapy. He came to Japan this summer to work for Educational and Developmental Intervention Services, the Defense Department program that screens and treats children with developmental or motor skills problems. He works at elementary schools on Atsugi, Zama and Sagamihara Housing Area.

When Easley saw there was no physical therapist at Atsugi, he campaigned to offer his skills to the community. With support from the branch health clinic’s officer in charge, Capt. (select) Thomas Mihara, and Yokosuka’s hospital, Easley was able to open shop in October and has been fully booked for weeks.

Easley, who also established a physical therapy practice at the Naval Special Warfare Center and School in California, can evaluate and treat patients for orthopedic, or musculoskeletal injuries, from work, sports or accidents. He also can help rebuild muscles after surgery if swelling or immobilization has weakened or stiffened joints.

Camp Zama’s physical therapy clinic loaned the Atsugi facility ultrasound and electrical stimulation equipment and an exam table. Easley said Zama’s clinic estimated about 30 percent of its patients had been coming from Atsugi.

Easley also had support from the physical therapist on the USS Kitty Hawk, where much of Atsugi’s active-duty population lives during deployments. Atsugi is home to Carrier Air Wing 5.

The ship’s therapist suggested that having Easley available to help the air wing while in port would help readiness because sailors who were treated on the ship could continue treatment once at home, Easley said.

Offering physical therapy falls in line with the Yokosuka hospital’s push for Patient Centered Care — clinics providing services in the best way possible for patients.

Physical therapy is especially helpful for military personnel, said Atsugi branch health clinic’s Mihara.

“We do a lot of physical activity so we’re fit for duty, and running tends to wear out our bodies,” he said. Patients “would much prefer not to have to drive somewhere for treatment.”

In addition to physical therapy, the Atsugi Branch Health Clinic now also offers optometry services. Patients can get eye exams, glasses and contact lenses from the optometry department. For information and appointments, call DSN 264-3958 from 7:30 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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