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Eight bases add chiropractic services to medical facilities

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 08, 2002) -- Eight Air Force medical treatment facilities added chiropractic medicine, and others will follow suit in the future.

Chiropractic medicine became available to the Air Force in 1995, after Congress directed the Department of Defense to test the feasibility of providing that service at its facilities. The findings directly resulted in Congress making chiropractic medicine a permanent benefit for active-duty military members, according to the director of the Air Force chiropractic program.

"Over the next five years we will gradually increase the availability of chiropractic services across the Air Force," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert Manaker. "A similar thing is happening across the Army and the Navy. This is a tri-service program."

Chiropractic medicine uses a hands-on technique to correct misalignments of joints in the body.

"Chiropractic helps by essentially realigning joints to their normal alignment," Manaker said. "A misalignment in your spine can cause the muscles around it to begin to have pain, to spasm or to cramp up. What chiropractors find is that if you realign those vertebrae, that can help decrease your pain."

Active-duty military members wanting to see the chiropractor at their local military treatment facility will need to first be seen by their own primary care provider, the doctor said.

"To see the chiropractor, you need to get a referral," Manaker said. "As a primary care provider, if I have sent you to an orthopedist and he thinks you could benefit from a chiropractor, he could also make the referral."

Military members who would like to see a chiropractor can be referred to any one of the DOD facilities that currently employ a chiropractor. For now, however, they will not be able to seek treatment from off-base private-practice chiropractors.

"If there isn't one at your base, you do not have the option of going off base to find a chiropractor," Manaker said.

If your military medical treatment facility has no chiropractor, your primary care provider can still refer you to a chiropractor at another military facility in the local area that has one, the doctor said.

Currently, the eight Air Force medical treatment facilities that offer chiropractic services to active-duty members include facilities at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; Offutt AFB, Neb.; Travis AFB, Calif.; Scott AFB, Ill., Keesler AFB, Miss.; Andrews AFB, Md.; Langley AFB, Va.; and the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.

The Air Force is working to increase the number of facilities offering the service, Manaker said.

"We wanted to get this benefit out to the most active-duty members that we could," he said. "We are looking at places where there are multiple bases or where there are the greatest number of active-duty members, and putting chiropractors there first."

The Air Force is hiring chiropractors to work in areas with the largest Air Force populations first, Manaker said. By 2007, the majority of Air Force active-duty members should have access to a chiropractor either at their own base or at a base nearby.