Physical Therapy

Reid Parnell, PT, DPT

Doctor of Physical Therapy
Specializing in spine care

Spine Physical therapists in Little Rock, ArkansasAt the Baptist Health Spine Center, Parnell specializes in spine physical therapy with emphasis on manual therapy. Working closely with the spine physicians at the spine center, he helps patients with neck and back pain issues to return to their normal everyday activities. For those who participate in sports, he strives to return them to their favorite recreational activity with therapy and exercises geared to prevent future recurrence of symptoms.

Unlike other general therapists that see a wide variety of injuries and ailments, Parnell is focused on the spine and has completed additional advanced courses which specialize in treating neck and back problems, including the following:

  • Advanced Spinal Manual Therapy

Certification from the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy in:

  • Dry Needling
  • Spinal Manipulative Therapy
  • Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

Spine Physical therapists in Little Rock, ArkansasParnell has a simple philosophy when it comes to treating the sometimes complex nature of spine therapy. “The best approach in my experience with back and neck problems is to first calm down the symptoms, and then slowly build up the flexibility and strength of the back which ultimately makes the back or neck more resistant to a future recurrence,” explains Parnell.

By combining manual therapy techniques, an individualized exercise program comprised of strengthening disuse components found through evaluation, and educating patients on anatomy and the science of pain, patients can be put on the right course towards managing their pain and returning to the activities they love.

Generalized Therapy vs. Spine-Specialized | What does this mean? | Manual Therapy | FAQ

General therapy vs. spine-specialized therapy

The only way to permanently relieve pain involves changing the physiology of the back by using exercise to make it stronger, more flexible and resistant to injury. While a general physical therapist may spend weeks attempting to mask pain using heat, ice or ultrasound, research has shown that using these passive treatments is not the best way to return someone to activity efficiently.

Typically a general therapist sees a wide variety of patients each day who suffer problems related to sore elbows, knees or shoulders. General physical therapists, unfortunately, have a very limited understanding of the best ways to treat specific types of back problems. At best, they may have taken a couple courses on therapy for a back or neck injury.

Conversely, a spine therapist is specialized in the treatment of back pain and neck pain. This therapist's primary goal is to enable the patient to perform a customized home exercise program as early as their first visit. The therapist’s second goal is to make the patient independent of therapy within a short period of time.


What does this mean for you?

Instead of receiving a general treatment approach, at Baptist Health Spine Center, your therapist specializes in treating back and neck pain. This can involve advanced, hands-on skills that can help relieve your pain and get your injured muscles, tissues and spinal structures moving again. Instead of a single school of thought, patients can access specialists with a variety of skills who can match the best treatments to your particular problem.

Manual therapy

Physical therapists in ArkansasManual therapy relates to the use of a therapist’s hands to achieve pain relief. By using specific techniques, the spine therapist can relieve pain through hands-on movements applied to vertebrae and soft tissue areas. This is achieved not passively with a modality such as ice or heat, but rather through actively moving the joints and tissues. Spine-specialized therapy can involve techniques taught by schools including McKenzie, Paris, Ola Grimsby, Cyriax and the Maitland therapy school in Australia.

A manual therapist’s background typically begins with physical therapy training, followed by advanced education in spine that sets them apart from general physical therapists. This specialized education can be within a host of manual therapy philosophies, each involving unique pain-relieving techniques that help patients return to function as quickly as possible. Regardless of the particular school of thought, the best spine therapists avoid the use of passive modalities, which do not provide permanent relief.


Frequently Asked Questions about therapy at Baptist Health Spine Center

Q. What makes Baptist Health Spine Center physical therapy different?

A. Just as the trend in medicine is for physicians to subspecialize in knees, or arm, or joint replacement, the exact same thing is happening in the area of physical therapy. That’s good news for patients.

best spine therapist for back painJust as the first step for a physician is to receive his MD degree, the first step for a physical therapist is to become a licensed physical therapist. Most orthopedic centers and therapy clinics will have licensed physical therapists who split their time among patients with knee pain, hip problems, shoulder pain, hand problems, ankle problems and foot problems.

Experts have found, however, that back and neck problems can be stubborn to treat and may not respond to general techniques learned in therapy school. Worse, what often happens is that when generalized therapy fails to relieve symptoms, the patient has to resort to spine surgery.

Consequently, those therapists who spend 100% of their time with spine patients learn early on that they need advanced training to help patients recover from back and neck pain nonsurgically. The better the spine training, the more often the back or neck pain sufferer will be able to recover without having to resort to spine surgery.

Baptist Health Spine Center physical therapy is directed by a therapist with advanced training in the spine specialized therapy, which is regarded worldwide as one of the most effective, spine-specialized therapy techniques.

Q. What will my therapy at Baptist Health Spine Center be like?

A. At other clinics with general therapists, you may have laid on a table, while someone put hot packs or ice on your back. Or your therapy may have included other passive things like ultrasound. Or you may have had a massage. The insurance companies who pay for back care have done extensive research on things that relieve back pain — for the long term — and they now have policies that eliminate payment to clinics doing “palliative care.” The word “palliative” means something that feels good, but doesn’t cure anything.

best spine therapist for back painSo while a massage or hot pack may feel good, it doesn’t provide any lasting change to the soft tissues in your back or neck. The effect on your symptoms is temporary, and in a sense, worthless because it doesn’t last, and your pain will return.

Nationally, the best spine treatment clinics avoid passive things like hot packs, ice and massage. Instead, spine specialized clinics emphasize things that strengthen the back, make it more flexible and resistant to injury. In other words, Baptist Health Spine Center emphasizes specialized spine techniques, stretches and exercises that will help you recover from injury without having to resort to surgery.

exercises to relieve back painQ. How do spine specialized exercises work?

A. Spine specialized exercises are based on Directional Preference. We help each patient to discover a direction or movement that improves mobility or function to relieve symptoms. This might be an extension movement, flexion of the trunk, rotation of the trunk, retraction or some combination of movements. Once a directional preference is found, then to we have to discover the optimal load and effort required to achieve the best results.

Q. Will my leg or arm pain go away using this method or will I need surgery?

A. The second aspect of the spine specialized exercises involves the concept of “centralization” of pain. Using these spine specialized techniques, a therapist can help a patient that has pain radiating down a leg to the knee area, to reduce the pain symptom so it no longer goes as far down the leg, and over time shrinks and “centralizes” the pain until it eventually disappears.

Some patients with pain radiating from the neck into the arm, and from the back into the leg, can respond very well to these exercises and stretches that centralize and ultimately relieve the pain completely.


It is important to note, however, that any time you have symptoms that involve radiating pain or numbness into a leg or arm, consider these serious emergency symptoms that need to be seen by a spine surgeon or spine physiatrist to determine if they are worsening, or if they can be managed with therapy. If you ignore these symptoms, such symptoms can cause permanent nerve damage. Another emergency symptom is any loss of control or bowel or bladder.


Non-surgical Spine Care

Affiliated Spine Surgeons
can be reached at 501-224-0200

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