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Teamwork helps veteran heal without surgery

Joe Puertos was accustomed to a certain amount of pain and discomfort — he had spent 20 years in the military and ran and hiked regularly. So when pain in his right foot stopped him in his tracks, he knew he needed help.

By the time he visited a doctor, Joe had developed pain in the left foot as well, which was over-compensating for the injured right foot. He was diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis, an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to the heel.

Fortunately, he knew just where to go for help. His wife Lili had recently undergone a successful knee surgery with Dr. Thomas Fyda at Great Basin Orthopaedics (GBO) and completed her physical therapy with Dr. Joel Peck. She was a fan of the practice.

“From the minute you walk in, everyone is so pleasant, so nice,” Joe says. “They really care.”

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No one enjoys being injured, but for Joe and Lili, being healthy and pain-free is essential for their jobs. The couple own Dynamic Integrity Cleaning Professionals — a commercial and residential cleaning service. Joe also serves in the Nevada Air National Guard and has to pass a physical fitness test each year. “If you can’t perform the test you’re done,” he explains.  

“Lili was so impressed with Great Basin Orthopaedics,” Joe says. “It wasn’t run like a business where it’s quick in and out in half an hour. They take the time you need.”

It wasn’t just the personal attention that impressed Joe and Lili. GBO’s therapy was so effective that Lili was able to get back to her physically demanding job quickly.

“If it wasn’t for Joel, my wife wouldn’t be back at work,” Joe says.

Committed to finding a solution

Joe began working with Amy Weyhenmeyer, a doctor of physical therapy at Great Basin Orthopaedics who is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

“Amy sees a lot of military and firefighters with my same injury,” Joe explains. “She was very encouraging and told me, ‘we can help you out.’”

After Weyhenmeyer and Joe began working together, he started to see some minor improvement, but he was still unable to run. He got an MRI to help further assess his condition and was advised by an orthopedist at another practice to have surgery. That was not the answer he was looking for.

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Joe was leery of surgery and believed that the right therapy could be successful. “I started doing research and talking with people who had that surgery,” Joe explains. “It’s not always successful, and the recovery is really hard. I didn’t want surgery.”

Weyhenmeyer assured him they could accomplish more in PT and consulted with her colleague Joel Peck, the head of GBO’s physical therapy clinic. The two therapists developed a plan, incorporating new modalities that included dry needling — a therapeutic technique for treating persistent pain using thin, stainless steel needles inserted into the muscle.

The team’s diligence and innovative approach paid off. Joe’s pain began to abate, and he was able to start running again. “They were very caring in what they were doing, and they just have a great work ethic,” Joe explains. “The dry needling worked.”

Joe is committed to healing without surgery and his GBO PT team is helping him do just that. He continues to see improvement and is doing exercises at home to maintain his progress.

When it came time for his annual physical fitness test with the National Guard, Joe was able to perform. “Thanks to them I was able to pass. Dry needling made the difference.”