CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dr. Micaire Baxter gives her husband, Sean, an adjustment on his neck. Micaire is a chiropractor. Sean is an Army captain and a Kiowa attack helicopter pilot. Micaire Baxter is giving free consultations and treatments to veterans.
Helping with a pain in the back
A chiropractic physician joins a Hawaii effort to give free care to military
Hawaii's chiropractic physicians are stepping up to help military warriors with joint and back pains and other musculoskeletal disorders from the intense strain of heavy combat loads.
Dr. Joseph Morelli at the Waipahu Chiropractic Clinic, vice president of the Hawaii Chiropractic Association, said the board is putting together a program with chiropractic doctors statewide.
Meanwhile, Dr. Micaire Baxter, who operates the Global Health Chiropractic office in the Gold Bond building, is offering one year of free care to military personnel under certain conditions.
The International Chiropractors Association began asking members in April to volunteer one year of free care for veterans returning from active duty. Baxter isn't a member but said she "thought that would be great to do."
Her first military patient was her husband, Capt. Sean Baxter, a Kiowa attack helicopter pilot with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. He said two tours in Iraq flying helicopters six hours a day, six days a week took a heavy toll on his body.
"The cockpit is so small -- and I'm a pretty small guy -- I still have to hunch over controls and fly with my arm on my knee, with a helmet on and night vision goggles with a tendency to pull my head forward."
He also wears body armor while flying. "I'm 75 pounds heavier in an aircraft," he said, noting troops on the ground wear and carry an extra 100 to 150 pounds of gear.
He suffered headaches, pain in his neck, shoulder blades, lower back and knees after missions with the 2nd Squadron, 6th Calvary aviation unit, he said. The Army's solution, he said, is to recommend Motrin.
He tried to get chiropractic services at the Schofield clinic but with a three-month wait he turned to his wife. "She actually put my spine back in alignment," he said. "It relieves all the tension."
She now offers free consultations and treatment to other military personnel who have served the past year in Iraq or Afghanistan. Patients must be based in Hawaii, not be under anyone else's chiropractic care and follow her treatment recommendations.
Besides relieving pain, Baxter said her goal is to promote nutritional support and lifestyle changes for healing. "It's more about getting well and staying well."
Morelli said Hawaii has 280 chiropractic doctors and about two-thirds are association members. "What we're trying to do is in every jurisdiction of the islands have one or two chiropractic representatives available to returning veterans."
The Veterans Administration already refers war veterans to a network of Hawaii chiropractors, he said, noting about 20 percent of his patients are military.
A Department of Veterans Affairs report in 2006 said nearly 43 percent of veterans seeking VA health care after returning from duty were diagnosed with musculoskeletal complaints, primarily joint and back disorders.
"We definitely do see a large demand," said Dr. Amy Ares, one of two chiropractic physicians at Schofield. She said they had a 91-day wait last month from the time of a consultation to actual treatment. However, she said Pearl Harbor just opened a clinic with a full-time chiropractor and she's hoping the wait drops to 60 days.
Each chiropractor at Schofield sees 20 to 25 patients a day with spinal, neck and back complaints, she said. "There is a huge demand. We're doing everything we can to meet it. The big holdup is additional funding for chiropractic care.
"It's great that civilian chiropractors are helping," said Ares. "My husband is deployed too and I would want him to get all the care he could." He is a physician's assistant deployed for training at Fort Carson, Colo., and will return to Tripler Medical Center in 15 months.
Micaire Baxter said she noticed poor posture of military personnel at ceremonies and parades because of stress on their body from carrying heavy weight during long hours on patrol or working at desks that aren't ergonomically designed.
Her husband said she was always pushing his head back because it leaned forward. He learned from her how to retrain his spine to be in a proper position, he said.
Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Berglund, who also flies helicopters in the 25th Division, has been going to Micaire Baxter for adjustments since December with his wife Trisha and three children, Ethan, 10, Ellianna, 7, and Estoria, 4.
"It's kind of a family plan," he said.
He said Sean Baxter, his boss in the 2nd Squadron, told him about his wife's free services and, since then, Berglund's family has been going for weekly sessions. "I just kind of store all my stress in my neck usually and wearing a helmet with goggles six hours at a time, yeah, I get lots of neck problems."