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Great Body Company works to stop injuries before they can happen

Matthew Lane • Aug 26, 2019 at 12:45 PM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport firefighter John Lufi has been dealing with some physical issues — injuries both recent and from before he started working for the city.

A month or two ago, he got hit in the head, which jerked all the muscles in his back. Prior to coming to Kingsport, Lufi dislocated his shoulder and was never able to finish therapy. His muscles were cramping, giving him headaches and taking a toll on him.

But now, with the help of a new preventative medical wellness program at the Great Body Company, Lufi is getting some relief for his niggling injuries.

“I’ve been coming in about once a week ... and it’s helping me get my mobility back,” Lufi said. “Overall, the whole program has taught me an awareness of my body, to listen to it and know when things are starting to go wrong. Now, we can head things off and not have to take time off.”

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

The program was created about four years ago at GBC in an attempt to treat people’s aches and pains on the front end before they become a more serious problem later on, explained Stan Johnson, owner of GBC.

How the program basically works is the staff at GBC talks to a person about a particular issue, looking out for any imbalances or triggers, while trying to determine what could be the cause. It could be you’re not lifting a box the correct way, you may be sitting in the wrong type of chair or maybe your computer keyboard is not sitting at the right angle.

How the injuries are resolved can be done a number of ways: through ergonomics, or stretching and flexibility exercises, cardio and weights, or stimulating trigger points. It just varies patient to patient.

“We treat you like an injury is coming,” Johnson said. “A lot of times it’s a muscular imbalance or maybe you’ve got a joint that’s overworked. We know somewhere in the area of 75 percent of aches and pains become an injury. We’re going in and getting those before they ever happen.”

And catching injuries before they happen is not only good for the patient, it’s good for the bottom line too. If an injury can be prevented, that saves money on lost productivity and worker’s compensation costs.

“The cost is fairly minimal when compared to the national averages. A shoulder problem costs $20,000, neck is $20,000, a back is $20,000. This includes doctors, rehab and medications,” Johnson said. “And any surgeries would add about $30,000.”

INTO THE BUSINESSES

The GBC has been doing the preventative medical wellness program for its members and people off the street, but in recent years the company has been reaching out and partnering with businesses and governments. Johnson said GBC has contracted with the city of Kingsport and the Tempur-Pedic factory in Duffield.

If city employees have an issue, they come to GBC. With Tempur-Pedic, GBC employees go the factory and treat the employees on site. Initially, GBC was spending four hours a week with Tempur-Pedic workers. Today, four years later, the visits are up to 27 hours a week.

“We typically see a lot of lower back issues, and shoulders and necks, knees and elbows, and carpel tunnel,” said Jeffery Dunklin, an athletic trainer at GBC. “We’ve stopped a couple from having to go to surgery. Five or six visits with me, it keeps you on the job and saves the city money.”

Kingsport employees don’t have to pay for the sessions.

Deputy City Manager Ryan McReynolds, who helped spearhead the initiative of Kingsport contracting with GBC, said the program has been successful.

“We’ve seen a twofold benefit. One, we’re always trying to minimize increasing health care costs and worker’s compensation claims. Second, we have a desire for all employees to fully function well outside of work,” McReynolds said. “These are valuable members of our staff, but they have lives outside of work.”

FINAL STATISTICS

The national average of the number of prescriptions you receive when you visit the doctor is 3.2, Johnson said. In Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, that number is 11. And with prescriptions having an average cost of $91 each, those numbers begin to add up quickly.

Johnson estimates that the return on investment for the GBC program is in the 4.5 range, meaning for every dollar spent on the program, businesses and governments save $4.50.

As you can imagine, the more physically demanding jobs within the city — public works, police and fire, construction — are going to the ones with the most potential for injury. However, whenever GBC starts crunching the numbers of potential injuries in a workplace, about 30 to 35 percent of the problems come from the administrative staff — people who are sitting behind a desk all day long.

Johnson, who is certified in ergonomics, said the GBC program can reduce pressure by 40, 50 to 60 percent a day.

Kate Woodworth, a librarian at the Kingsport Public Library, started using the GBC program about two years ago during her pregnancy.

“It helped me with safe stretching and ways to safely exercise during pregnancy. And it helped me recover,” she said. “I come here every week for help with stretches and to keep me on track. It’s been a great program for us.”

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