By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Zulema Sotelo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
SILVERDALE, Wash., April 6, 2015 – Aches and pains, whether from age or accident, have a tendency to be a byproduct for many sailors and Marines in their duties. To help ease the hurt, active-duty personnel have the option of seeking help from a chiropractor.
Spring Aragon, the resident chiropractor at Branch Health Clinic Bangor, ensures service members get the best care for muscular pain and physical discomfort.
Aragon said she supports the mission of Naval Hospital Bremerton to enable readiness, wellness and health care by the accurate diagnosis of spinal, neuromusculoskeletal injuries and conditions, providing corrective and rehabilitative adjustments and treatments for those conditions listed, and performing prevention therapy.
Treating Neck, Back Issues
“I primarily look at neck and back issues. That’s what we treat about 80 percent of the time,” Aragon said. “People come in with back pain and that’s something they will deal with more than once in their lifetime.”
Many patients “come in because of the gear they wear, standing for prolonged periods of time, or standing and sitting in static positions which cause a lot of symptoms,” she added.
According to TRICARE, the Chiropractic Health Care Program covers chiropractic care, which emphasizes the recuperative power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery at designated military hospitals and clinics for active duty service members and activated Guard and reserve members.
Other beneficiaries, such as family members and retirees can be referred to nonchiropractic health care services, such as physical therapy or orthopedics, or can get chiropractic care in the local community at their own expense.
Evaluating Needs of Service Members
Service members receive meticulous inspection and hands-on holistic care at the clinic, Aragon said.
“We evaluate [the] patients and see if they need X-rays, imaging, tissue work, and joint mobility exercises,” she said. “We see how they do so we can get the whole picture of where their main issues are coming from and then apply direct treatment into that area.”
Aragon said she’s familiar with the military lifestyle and the area in which she works.
“I was born and raised around this area,” Aragon said. “I’ve been here since I was a baby. I actually lived on this base because my dad was a chief in the Navy so I’m familiar with the area.
“I grew up here, attended Clear Creek Elementary School and got my bachelors from the University of Washington,” she continued. “I’ve been here pretty much all my life even to the point that I was even a patient at the hospital here.”
Applying Experience as a Patient
Aragon recalled being cared for by the people that she now returns the favor to and shares her past experiences with Navy medicine with her patients.
“I injured my foot when I was in gymnastics and had to go the hospital -- the Navy hospital -- to get X-rays and go through physical therapy,” Aragon said. “I ended up seeing a sports medicine doctor because I had actually moved one of the bones out of place when I was had sprained my ankle.
“At the time it was helpful, but that was one reason that I went in that direction as far as my career is concerned,” she continued. “I can always remember being pretty young and it was interesting that I got all that care. The care I received later became a major component in my decision [to become a chiropractor]. Besides, to be a provider here in the same area that I was actually treated as a small kid is kind of fun.”
Aragon enjoys providing quality care to service members in need.
“Right now, the only way people can schedule an appointment with me is through referral by their primary care manager or any of their other medical providers that they may be working with from physical therapy,” she said. “They [TRICARE] are looking at making it a direct access so people won't need a referral to come in. It would still mean the getting the same care, but they wouldn’t have to worry about getting a referral. Just call and schedule.”
The TRICARE primary care manager decides if chiropractic care is required, Aragon said. Service members will be screened to rule out any medical conditions that would prohibit chiropractic care. If appropriate, the care manager will refer the patient to a chiropractor for treatment. The service member’s care manager decides on the duration and frequency of chiropractic services.
A Rewarding Job
The caveat, she said, is that if a service member decides on his or her own to get chiropractic care someplace else other than one of the designated locations it won’t be covered by TRICARE.
But those who visit Aragon get her undivided attention to help them alleviate their aches and pains.
“I feel like I can help the active-duty [service members] get better from injuries and improve and learn how to avoid injuries in the future,” she said. “I always thought it was amazing what the military has to do with all kinds of activities, like being deployed. So I like to think that I hopefully help them all feel a little bit better in the process.
Aragon added, “The most rewarding part of my job is being able to help people and make them feel better -- helping patients get up to do the things they want to do and go back to their physical activities. That makes me feel really good, when I can help someone.”