A slight adjustment

PT Papke’s whereabouts change physically, not therapeutically

To help with your goal to keep moving, Tom Papke  . . . has moved.

Not that there’s any cause-and-effect relationship between physical therapist Papke’s recent move to the rear of the Rappahannock Medical Center complex on Washington’s Gay Street and what Papke does, as a matter of course over the last 30 years he’s been in private practice, to help clients overcome injuries and recover from surgeries.

Tom Papke readies for a client at his new office behind the Rappahannock Medical Center.
Tom Papke readies for a client at his new office behind the Rappahannock Medical Center. | Rappahannock News

It is true, though, that Papke’s new place is a bit quieter, overlooking the woods and fields of Avon Hall rather than the timber and VDOT trucks of Main Street. And it’s still open to clients every Friday, and office manager Laura Skauge — who first started “commuting” to Papke’s office when he opened one in the old Kramer Building, conveniently down the hall from the door to the apartment Skauge used to rent there — is still at the front desk.

There’s a “P.T.” after Papke’s name on his business card; it does not stand for “part time.” The  Rappahannock office is a part-time practice, but that’s because his full-time practice, Capitol Metro Physical Therapy (yes, that P.T.), has grown to four clinics in and around D.C. over the last 15 years. He also continues to lecture on orthopedic physical therapy, and is a fellow in the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Therapy.

A native of Rockford, Ill., Papke, 55, began pursuing physical therapy after high school, and eventually headed out to California, working at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and completing an orthopedic residency program in the Bay Area. After starting up a private practice back in southern California, he got a phone call one day from L.A. Raiders head trainer George Anderson. Thus grew Papke’s specialty — of working with athletes, professional and otherwise (including 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and other names familiar to any self-respecting ESPN subscriber).

Coming east to Virginia and D.C. in 1998 after selling his Santa Monica-based practice, Papke opened Capitol Metro in an Alexandria health club. At the time, he says, only about 5 percent of practicing physical therapists were connected to a health or fitness club; now it’s common practice. Papke’s offices in D.C. (at Farragut Square) and Tysons Corner are inside of One to One Fitness Centers; he also has an office in Alexandria, and the one here.

Papke first opened a billing office in Rappahannock County seven years ago, shortly after buying his piece of paradise here (and not long afterward letting go of the townhouse in the city) with his partner, architect Ernesto Flores. When space next to Main Street’s Hair Gallery opened up shortly afterward that, Papke moved the operation there, and added treatment rooms.

“I’ve tried different business hours here. First I saw clients Fridays and Saturdays, then half-day Friday-Saturday-Monday,” he says. “But then I realized I was not getting to enjoy life here as much, so now it’s just a full day on Fridays.”

He often refers those who are looking for a more regular weekday treatments — or integrated movement classes and equipment — to Mountainside Physical Therapy, Anne Williams’ larger practice on U.S. 211 near Washington. Papke says he and Williams — who opened almost at the same time, neither knowing of the others’ plans — refer clients to each other regularly.

His focus on orthopedic and sports-related issues is a longtime focus, he says.

“My favorite group of clients,” he says, “are people who have tried other things, or everything, without much success. The more complicated the problem, the more fun it is for me.”

In Rappahannock, he sees those with equestrian-related injuries or strains, high school athletes, older clients who’ve had osteoarthritis problems and/or joint replacements and people with farming or agriculture-related problems. If you’ve worked with Tom Papke, you get the strong feeling that a lot of them want to call him “Coach.”

In addition to its scenic and recreational benefits, Papke says, among the best things about living in Rappahannock is being part of its small, diverse but familiar community. “I like the connection to community that being here brings,” he says.

In fact, after a local photographer he treated a few years back during a troublesome hip-replacement recovery kneels on the floor to take his picture, and then gets up off the floor effortlessly (if not gracefully), Papke gives the thumbs up. “Excellent,” he says.

You can find Thomas M. Papke, PT, at 338D Gay St. in Washington. Call 540-675-3090 or visit capitolmetrophysicaltherapy.com for more information.

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 545 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.