The Physical Therapist’s Perspective of Physical Therapy—But as a Patient!

One of our very own physical therapist’s, Jen Wardyga, PT, DPT, is currently getting physical therapy while recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery. While Jen spends most of her time providing physical therapy services to her patients, she now finds herself on the receiving end. See below for her perspective!


As a lifelong athlete with a long list of my own injuries that have put me onto a physical therapy
treatment table, I have lots of personal experience being a patient. While recovering from my second ACL reconstruction surgery, I was a first-year student in PT school and was conveniently learning about the musculoskeletal system, which helped me to learn a lot more about my injury—why it happened, why my physical therapist was choosing certain exercises for my exercise program, and why she was working on some parts of my body more than others. Now I’m recovering from my 3 rd ACL reconstruction surgery as a full-time physical therapist, and I feel like this is the best recovery I’ve had so far.


Some people might say “The third time’s a charm,” but I have put a lot of work in behind the scenes that has certainly helped me to see good progress in my recovery. As a patient, I realized that doing my home exercise program three times a day feels a lot like a full-time job, especially when I’m already so tired from my body working in overdrive as it recovers from such an aggressive surgery. Full disclosure: this is the first time that I have been consistently compliant with my home exercises. Let me tell you, there is indeed real truth when your physical therapist says, “The more you do your exercises at home, the better off you’ll be.” Some of these exercises help me with my strength, others with my flexibility, and still others that help my scar tissue to heal as optimally as possible. To be quite honest, sideways bandwalks and foam rolling my quads, IT bands, and adductors are some of the most—hmm, how should I put this—brutal exercises! BUT knowing what I have learned as a physical therapist, I know they are so important for injury prevention and treatment, which is why I prescribe them to almost every one of my
patients with a lower body injury.

Outside of my hard physical work in this recovery journey, the most important thing that has helped me to be so successful thus far is the wonderful support system I have that helps me to keep my spirits and my motivation high. My family has been amazingly loving and supportive throughout my recovery journey, which has helped me to feel like I’m not going through this alone. I am also working with a personal life coach, who frequently helps me to work through the rougher parts of this journey. One of the most important strategies I have learned through this recovery process is becoming comfortable in sitting and pushing through the difficult, frustrating, and uncomfortable situations that often cause me to feel emotions that I cannot always identify right away. Sometimes I cry, and I’m not sure why. Other times I feel frustrated or angry, and I’m also not sure why. Is it the injury that’s causing me to feel this way? Or is it other circumstances or maybe even my perspective that might be the culprit? Through my own research targeting the relationship between emotional and physical components of injury, I’ve learned that inability to appropriately process and manage emotions during the recovery process can cause a delay in physical progress. Sometimes suppressed emotions can manifest in physical forms, causing the body to catastrophize the pain response. As a result, the patient may experience limited physical progress and less successful rehabilitation outcomes.

Now being back in the clinic and treating patients again, I find myself drawing from my personal physical therapy experiences to identify and empathize with my patients even more so than I did before this surgery. One of my goals as a physical therapist has always been to help my patients feel like they are never flying solo through their own injury and recovery journey. I want them to feel like I’m here for them, and we will work through the difficult parts together. Now being on the flip side of surgery, I feel like I can do this even better!

Don’t like foam rolling, doing bandwalks, or performing single leg squats when rehabbing your own injury? Do you find yourself unmotivated to complete your exercises at home because they are difficult and they make you sore? Come to Girl Fit and do them with me! At Girl Fit Physical Therapy, regardless of the physical therapist you’re working with, you are never alone in your journey. We are all a team and we want our patients to have the best success!