Back doctor relieves Airmen’s pain

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

8/9/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- Military students will soon hail Maxwell as their permanent change of station, or PCS, while they attend classes at the schools and colleges of the Air University. However, they may not realize the strain the classroom setting takes on their bodies.

That is why the chiropractic service, which treats musculoskeletal pain, is offered at the clinic for all active duty members at no charge and is crucial to their success, according to Dr. Scot Shaffer, who has been the contracted chiropractor with the 42nd Medical Group for six years.

"When you're a student and you sit for six to eight hours a day, you get a lot of tension that builds up in your shoulders. You get a lot of burning between your shoulder blades," Shaffer said.

"Sometimes you just have to dig out those muscles, dig out those knots and get everything to move and function properly again," he said.

Since Shaffer's patients are active duty, they are accustomed to a busy daily routine. As a result, remaining still for long periods of time is difficult for them, Shaffer said.

"You can adjust your computer, you can adjust your desk, you can adjust everything so it is ergonomically correct, but it doesn't matter," he said. "If you sit at your desk all day, you're still going to have the same issues. You have to vary your routine."

The most common ailments that Shaffer treats are neck or lower back pain, headaches, pain between the shoulder blades or numbness in extremities that may result from muscle strain.

Shaffer's patients enjoy returning to an active, pain-free regimen following treatment.

Second Lt. Jennifer James, with the 42nd Medical Clinic's information services, has been one of Shaffer's patients for more than a year and says his "thorough and effective" services provide her with instant relief from back pain, muscle stiffness, sinus headaches and tension.

"Muscle pain and tension leave me feeling drained and sluggish," James said. "Sinus pressure causes me to lose focus. When I seek treatment for all these symptoms, I have the energy and attention to perform my job to the best of my ability."

With a focus on creating a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for pain sufferers, Shaffer surveys each patient's medical history, provides a physical examination, tests their range of motion and recommends a treatment method to relieve the frequency, intensity and duration of their pain.

The primary way Shaffer and other chiropractors treat musculoskeletal pain is through spinal manipulation.

Shaffer's treatments also include specific exercises for rehabilitation, lumbar stabilization exercises, stretching, manual soft tissue mobilization therapy and kinesio taping.

Shaffer knows all too well the amount of discomfort and pain one must endure when muscles, tendons and ligaments are not properly aligned.

Formerly active duty, Shaffer entered the Air Force after graduating from high school in Texas and was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., with the 33rd Fighter Wing for four years.

His interest was dentistry until a herniated disk in his lower back caused him three years of intensive pain.

One visit from a chiropractor relieved his pain and changed his chosen career field. Instead of following dentistry, Shaffer enrolled in Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore., and began working with a private practice for six years.

However, he missed working alongside the military and found an opportunity to serve those at Maxwell.

"I've always missed being in the military environment," Shaffer said. "I thrived there and I really enjoyed it. So I always wanted to get back into it."

Now, back in his "original stomping grounds," Shaffer said the highlight of working at Maxwell is the variety of military student patients he receives each year.

"One of the things I love about being here at Maxwell is the high turn-over rate of patients I treat from Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, Squadron Officer School and School of Advanced Air and Space Studies students who come here for a year," Shaffer said. "I get to meet some really fantastic people who have done some really awesome things within the military."

During his time at Maxwell, Shaffer said he has treated thousands of patients, including international officers from more than 30 different countries, and is proud to serve them at one of only 20 different chiropractic clinics in the Air Force.

To set up an appointment, active duty or reservists on duty can call Shaffer at 953-5988 from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A referral is not necessary unless one is assigned to flight medicine.