Physical Therapy Insights and Tips

While recovering from my Fibula Free Flap Jawbone Replacement surgery, I needed to learn how to walk again. Fortunately, after interviewing several doctors, I found two outstanding physical therapists Danielle and Shira Wiess (DPT, CKTP, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner) in Alexandria, VA.It was crucial for me to regain mobility to return to my normal day to day activities and most importantly be able to run and play with my children again.

When I first met Danielle and Shira, they were incredibly warm and friendly. Most importantly, their exceptional knowledge in the field paired with their attention to detail was impressive. I asked them to share what an initial general assessment entailed to allow other HNC patients a bit more insight into the process. They explained the following:

– Address restrictions subsequent from graft sites

– Restore mobility in regions affected by surgery and graft sites

– Address TMJ function and restore jaw mobility

– Address HA from masticatory muscle dysfunction, as well as head and neck muscle tension
– Understand how to recognize red flags

– Neck stretches and strengthening

– Postural re-education and lifting mechanics 

– Wound care/education on infection/when to contact MD with concerns

I asked Shira for her professional opinion on the correlation between a hopeful/positive patient verse a patient with a laissez-faire attitude. She said, “Generally speaking, we find that people who are more invested in actively participating in their recovery, will have a better outcome and tend to have better scores on outcome measures.”  I went to therapy three days a week for one hour and in addition worked diligently at home on exercises. It was a process to regain my mobility, balance, flexibility and strength. I am certain without their help I would not have healed and advanced as quickly as I did. Thanks to Danielle and Shira I am now able to walk, bend, balance, jump on the trampoline and play sports with my children in record time. 

My tips for anyone seeking a physical therapist are basic. 

First, do your research and select the right professional for you! Make sure they are well versed in the field and can effectively help you. 

Second, attend your appointments and diligently work on exercises at home to ensure progress.

Third, openly communicate with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page. You want to have a clear understanding of the treatment plan and establish goals. I was fortunate that my team continuously checked in with me. They would call and email in between appointments to see how I was feeling, as well as asked how I felt during in person sessions. This allowed them to make any necessary adjustments to ensure every exercise perfectly addressed my needs and goals.

Fourth, ensure you have supportive, non-skid sneakers and comfortable clothing. You will be moving around quite a bit depending on your treatment plan and you want to make sure to wear the appropriate attire to optimize your sessions. 

Fifth, do not get discouraged. Do not give up. Manage your pain and remember the healing process takes time. Stick with the plan and stay focused on the big picture for a healthy, strong and mobile future.  

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