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News | July 6, 2021

Doctors keep pain low and personnel serving

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The 88th Medical Group’s Pain Clinic team is pioneering pain management for Airmen to diminish the physical aches of military service.

The clinic’s three interventional pain doctors, neuropsychologist, nurse, X-ray technician, physical therapy technician and physical therapist offer more and newer multidisciplinary options to patients in pain than any other hospital in the Air Force.

Traditionally, pain from arthritis, narrowing of the spine and conditions common to military personnel such as chronic regional pain syndrome, or persisting pain in lost extremities, are often treated solely with injection therapy, medication and nerve burning.

The small but mighty clinic at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is rising above these conventions for the sake of its unconventional patient population.

“Something that’s unique to this Pain Clinic and emerging in the interventional pain-management field are minimally invasive surgical options that bridge the gap between traditional neuromodulation and full-blown spine surgery,” said Dr. (Maj.) Joseph Wray, one of the clinic’s anesthesiologists. “That’s what I’ve made my mission: bringing these modalities that provide longer-lasting, durable pain relief to our active duty servicemembers, as well as family members, (Veterans Affairs) patients and any benefit beneficiary.”

Procedures Wright-Patt’s doctors can perform include minimally invasive lumbar decompression to relieve pressure on nerves for patients who struggle to stand or walk without leg or back pain. Vertiflex, a titanium interspinous spacer, helps open up the spinal canal.

Patients cannot access either surgical option at any other clinic in the Air Force, 88 MDG officials said.

Prior to his position at Wright-Patterson AFB, a fellowship at the University of Florida taught Wray the innovative technologies and field practices that fit the base’s complex demographic.

“The patients (we) see are typically younger than a normal patient population,” Wray said. “They’re experiencing back degeneration, arthritis and chronic pain at a much younger age because of the jobs they do. That’s definitely the most unique part of practicing at a military base.”

Wray said these specific needs, combined with the acceptance and foresight of WPAFB leadership, allowed him to maximize and give feet to his education.

In addition to the new surgical options, the clinic helps patients through restorative yoga and acupuncture, capabilities that only three other Air Force hospitals offer.

The Wright-Patterson Medical Center pain doctors are working to spread this expertise across the Defense Department, planning remote seminars and connecting their colleagues at other hospitals with device companies for further training.

As the physicians continue to serve the Wright-Patterson AFB community every day, they agreed that working to match their level of innovative medicine to military personnel’s standard of sacrificial service makes the clinic’s work fulfilling. 

“Helping out our active-duty military is the most rewarding part of this job because sometimes they’re neglected, especially in the private sector,” said Dr. Brandon Harris, an anesthesiologist at the clinic. “Controlling their pain allows them to serve the country and keep us all safe.”

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