Cover Story: Where Quality Care Creates Superior Results

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By Patty Jo Sawvel  ~  

Lee Howard learned at an early age that you cannot accomplish much alone.  So when he decided at age 13 to lift weights, he enlisted his buddy Billy, who had a weight set in his basement.  Later, Billy’s parents expanded the 100 sq. ft. niche to a 750 sq. ft. gym complete with a universal exercise machine, weights, posters, music, and mirrors.

One day, when Lee’s family was in Lynchburg, Virginia he spotted the Courtside Athletic Club.  He begged to go in and his parents acquiesced.

“The first thing I noticed was the massive free weight room.  It was double-decked.  It had two levels!  Then I saw what seemed like an endless amount of Nautilus equipment.  I said to myself, ‘These guys are serious!  This is where I want to be,’” Lee recalled with his boyish grin.

Somehow, this 13-year-old convinced his parents to drive 40-miles round trip once or twice a week for his workouts.  Then, Lee’s big break came.  Because he was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, the gym owners made him part of their team.  At the age of 15, Lee began working as a personal trainer for the gym.

“This was more than just a chance to get paid for what I loved to do,” Lee explained.  “This gave me a chance to give back by helping other people achieve their fitness goals.”

One day, Mary Wallman walked in.  Lee skillfully showed her how to use the equipment. She was so impressed with his commitment to excellence that she and her husband, John, invited Lee to visit their physical therapy practice.

“I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Lee said.  “It had all the components that I was naturally interested in.  It was a hands-on way to help other people maximize their abilities.”

When it came time for Lee Howard to compete for one of 30 openings against 967 applicants for the master’s degree program at Old Dominion University School of Physical Therapy, it was the fact that he was part of a growing team since the age of 13 that positioned him to be a first round draft pick.  Later, Lee earned his Ph.D. in Exercise and Sports Science at UNCG.

Finally, in 2006, Lee and his wife, Tracy, opened their own practice, Carolina Physical Therapy, in Kernersville and built a team of professionals that continue to exceed his expectations.  Each member of his staff is constantly researching and training in the newest technology to help clients.

Pam Idol was the recipient of one of the latest therapeutic advances.  After falling hard on her back, her MRI showed a pinched nerve and a bulging disc.  This caused numbness in her hands and an excruciating stabbing pain in her left leg.  Her doctor sent her to Carolina Physical Therapy.  Lee suggested functional dry needling and Class 4 Laser treatment.

“Lee needled and lasered my neck, my back, and my leg.  I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, it works!’  The needling feels like a split-second mild ache and then relief.  The laser feels like a warm, awesome massage.  I feel so good I want to celebrate,” Pam said.

Explaining the science behind the tools, Lee shared, “Needling has a mechanical effect on the muscle, allowing it to release

quicker than is possible with traditional massage therapy.  The laser treatment works on the cellular level and jumpstarts the healing.  When we use them together, it really speeds up the healing.”

Pam also brought home a prescription for 15 minutes of daily exercise to maintain her health without the aid of physical therapy.  But who has 15 extra minutes to squeeze into an already overbooked lifestyle?

Pam explained, “I did not have to carve 15 minutes out of my busy day.  I do some of the stretches and exercises before I get out of bed, I do a couple in the shower, and I do a couple while I am waiting in line at the store.”

Veronica Weidl has also experienced amazing results with needling.  When she was 17 years old, she had a terrible rodeo horse riding accident, leaving her in chronic and considerable pain for the past 14 years.  Veronica visited chiropractors, orthopedists, and other medical specialists to no avail.  Then last year, a friend referred her to Lee Howard.

“It took six months for Lee to resolve all the underlying problems, but I am now pain free 90% of the time,” Veronica announced.  “When I do have something pop up, he can fix it in one visit.”

Veronica drives 40 miles one-way to Carolina Physical Therapy, and as she says, “For a long time, I forgot what it felt like to be pain free.  Now that I know, I am sticking with Lee.”

Not everyone opts for laser or dry needling treatments.  Bruce Boyer, who injured his shoulder while playing racquetball, chose traditional physical therapy.  It is interesting to note that Bruce put off treatment and lived with pain for two years because he was sure that his injury would require surgery.  He did not want surgery to interfere with his last two years of work at the Chamber of Commerce.

“I kick myself for waiting.  Not only did Carolina Physical Therapy fix my shoulder without surgery, but I can now play racquetball at the most advanced level of my life.  So I came out of this, not only restored, but improved,” Bruce said with a laugh.

Improvement is exactly why young athletes go to Carolina Physical Therapy and Carolina Athletic Development.  They help many local athletes improve their game.  Two of these athletes, Sydney White and Austin Britt, intend to follow in Lee Howard’s footsteps to become Physical Therapists.

Sydney White graduated from East Forsyth High School (EFHS) with a full paid track scholarship to Wake Forest University.  With Lee’s help since high school, Sydney just set her new pole vaulting record at 13’9 ¼” and achieved All-American status in the June Nationals.

Sydney said, “Lee Howard is the smartest person I know.  He helps me with my injuries, training, and even my mindset before a meet.  He is my role model.”

DJ Britt’s son, Austin, plays soccer at EFHS and has his sights set on High Point University.  Austin has been working with Lee Howard since 9th grade.  DJ said, “This is an investment that we are making because we have a serious athlete.  Lee is clearly making Austin a better athlete and a better person.  The results show up on the field.”

As one might expect, Lee is also careful to build up his staff.  He praises his team for giving patients their best opportunity to be pain free, to improve mobility, and to improve function by employing the latest treatment tools.

“As an example of their commitment,” Lee explained, “my staff spent six hours last month—after work—discussing individual clients and how we can maximize their outcomes.  They work so well together that I could not do what I do without them.”

On the home front, Lee’s team is equally successful.  Logan, a senior at EFHS is ranked as one of the leading football kickers in the nation.  Ten-year-old Trevor is on track to make his dreams come true in soccer and martial arts.  Lee claims the one who holds it all together—at work and at home—is his beloved wife, Tracy.

“Tracy is on both teams,” Lee said gratefully.  “She works part-time at the office and knows when she needs to step in and when she needs to step back.  At home, she takes care of our family and keeps all of us going in the right direction.  She is key to everyone’s success.”

Carolina Physical Therapy is also a team player in the community of Kernersville.  It sponsors Chamber of Commerce events, supports Partnership for Youth at the YMCA, and partners with area schools and businesses to promote injury prevention and wellness.

Award-winning journalist Patty Jo Sawvel can be contacted at





Lee Howard, Ph.D., PT, ATC, ATC/L, CSCS, PT, Owner, Physical Therapist

Tracy Howard – Office Administration

Rachel Baldridge – Office Administration

Jodie Holt – Office Administration

Ben Cooper, PTA, CPT

Matt Zwilling, DPT, CSCS

Gina Furter, DPT, CSCS, ATC

Seth Hart, BS, CSCS – Carolina Athletic Development/ Strength Coach

Kaela Bellefeuil – PT Technician 


• Functional Dry Needling

• Class 4 Laser 

• Orthopedic Physical Therapy

• Sports Medicine

• Health and Wellness: Pain Relief, Mobility, and Hands-On Care • Athletic Development 

905 Old Winston Rd., Kernersville, NY
992.2787  •


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