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The Physical Therapy Zone – A Balanced Approach for Patients in Old Town

Walking in Old Town can be tricky due to factors such as uneven brick sidewalks. This is just one of the reasons Dr. Alexander offers therapy to patients.

Dr. Alexander is right where she wants to be, in the heart of Old Town, an easy and convenient location for her patients.
(All photos: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Alexandria, VA – Barbara Sumner is walking a straight line, something she struggled with just a few short weeks ago. Sumner, age 77, developed Bell’s palsy at the beginning of the year. Although it’s generally a temporary condition, one of the lasting effects she sustained was damage to the vestibular nerve in her ear, which negatively affected her balance. Sumner had been going to a physical therapist elsewhere but received a tip from one of her doctors. “My ENT, whom I was seeing for my poor balance issues, recommended I see a physical therapist who had a Ph.D.”

Dr. Lori Alexander, left, and patient Barbara Sumner. In just a few short weeks, both women are pleased and optimistic about Sumner’s progress.

Enter Lori Alexander, MSPT, DP Lori Alexander, MSPT, DPT T, and founder of The Physical Therapy Zone. Dr. Alexander was a practicing physical therapist for several years before opening her own practice in the heart of Old Town. While the trend in physical therapy was moving toward a more independent approach, with patients receiving brief instruction and then performing exercises on their own, even in a clinic setting, Alexander preferred the one-on-one model of care, personalizing each patient’s regimen and catering to their specific needs.

Dr. Alexander wanted to set herself apart from other practices so she continued her professional training and development as far as she could, and she is proud of the doctorate she earned. She provides talented, confident care with kindness, compassion, and convenience. She purposefully chose to locate her clinic in Old Town so patients could easily reach her. “I wanted to be right in the center of the city, where the people are, where they work and play. It’s easy for them to walk here for their physical therapy, which is of course great.”

Walking in Old Town can be tricky. Uneven brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets cause ankles to turn, sprain, or break. Hips fracture from tripping over the bricks. This is just one of the reasons Alexander is focused on balance therapy for her patients.

Free Balance Workshop, Saturday, September 12, 1:00 p.m.

Dr. Alexander is offering a free workshop on Saturday, September 12, at 1 p.m., and will administer standardized balance tests, including a dynamic gait index or Berg Balance Scale, to help determine fall risk. Attendees will receive exercises that they can continue at home to reduce their fall risk. Covid-19 measures will be in place, of course. Masks must be worn, and distancing guidelines will be followed as attendees are seen one by one.

Dr. Alexander explained, “Balance is key for good health and to avoid injuries. The scores on these tests indicate if your risk is low, medium, or high. If it’s high, we recommend physical therapy.” Overall, The Physical Therapy Zone welcomes clients of all ages and offers a wide range of services, therapies, and treatments, in addition to balance therapy.

Dr. Alexander monitoring her patient, Barbara Sumner, as part of the treatment process.

Barbara Sumner just wants to get back on the basketball court. She plays on the women’s 75+ team in the Northern Virginia United Senior Women’s Basketball Association. (For a dose of healthy inspiration, check out the documentary, Coming Back to the Hoop*, featuring Sumner’s senior women’s basketball team.) She’s come a long way in the short time she’s been seeing Dr. Alexander, and she’s optimistic. “Because of the physical therapy here, my assessment is now very, very good. Excellent. At one time I was not able to comfortably go down the steps here, and now they’re no longer a challenge.”

Using a gait belt, an assistive tool that’s also a safety device, Alexander paces Sumner through exercises that include tandem walking (one foot in front of the other), moving the head while walking (essential for everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping), and walking backward (needed to back into and sit on a chair or a commode).

Dr. Alexander keeps The Zebra on hand for her patients and staff

Sumner then stepped on a wobble board, a moving surface, to test her balance. As Alexander said, “The better she gets on a moving surface, the better she’ll get outdoors on uneven brick. We challenge her with different activities so when she’s outdoors, she’ll be able to catch her balance if she were to stumble or fall.”

Both Alexander and Sumner are thrilled with Sumner’s improvement in only three weeks. She’s progressed from needing both feet to stand on the wobble board to using only one at a time. Sumner sings the praises of The Physical Therapy Zone to her teammates, who range in age from 50 to 85. “They’re all trying to stay in shape, but they’re having challenges, too. I still have a way to go. But having the discipline with someone standing over and instructing me is most helpful. I tell them that I recommend this place. I highly, highly recommend it.”

The Physical Therapy Zone is located at 127A North Washington Street in Old Town, between King and Cameron. Visit them online at or call 703-837-0010.

* Coming Back to the Hoop is available on Amazon Prime, and possibly other providers.

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