I have low back pain, now what?

When it comes to low back pain, there is no shortage of providers you can go see. You can see your primary care physician, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a physical therapist, a yoga instructor, an orthopedic physician and even a neurosurgeon.

You may be asking, how do I then decide who is the right choice for me?

Who do I go see and more importantly how much does each option cost?

Who do I go see and more importantly how much does each option cost?

Some people want to avoid medications, surgery, and injections at all costs. This narrows the field of potential practitioners off the bat. If you are to see a physician, very likely you will be prescribed medication, given some kind of diagnostic test (X-ray or MRI) and then prescribed physical therapy. The involvement of specialists (orthopedic spine physicians and neurosurgeons is often not the first line of defense).


Some practitioners offer more conservative approaches to treatment of low back pain. Massage therapists offer soft tissue work and stretching to address pain and limitations. Yoga instructors offer movement based interventions. Some pure Chiropractors believe that disease processes stem from a malalignment of the vertebrae (bones in your spine.) Their treatment is thus geared toward adjusting the spine so that the nervous system can function properly.

I can speak the most intelligently about physical therapists. We are movement specialists who address our patient’s impairments to help them stay active and pain free. A good physical therapist looks at the movements of your whole body to see if there are compensations in the normal patterns of movement, to find muscle weakness, to find joint restrictions, tight muscles, poor balance, and assess how a patient’s environment and activities may be affecting their pain and limitations. From there, we start to address those impairments and very often pain subsides and we can ramp activity back up.

Another difference I see in good practitioners is the ability to help patients with low back pain become independent. If you are constantly receiving care and are not taking an active role in your own recovery and health, I think you are not being properly cared for. I don’t know too many practitioners that you can take on vacation with you to help you when your back gets flared up. Because there are so many factors that play a role in a patient’s pain a very multimodal approach to intervention is indicated.

Brian, what do you mean by multi-modal approaches in low back pain treatment? I mean that there has to be a combination of manual therapy (hands on techniques) and active exercise. I do not believe in passive approaches to care. I am not going to stick you on a TENS unit (thing that makes your skin tingle) with an ice pack for 15 minutes while I catch up on notes. What in life has come easy to you without having to put in work or effort? I am telling you now that dealing with your body is no different and in fact often is harder work.

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I don’t like to give generic advice and exercises, but there are recommendations and movements that are well researched that can help reduce the risk of injury and also help alleviate current pain that may be stemming from your back. This advice does not mean that you should not go see a skilled medical provider that will employ the above mentioned approaches to your care.

Over the next weeks I will be providing this information on how you can get back to doing the things you love, after all, we can all live with some pain, but when it starts to interfere with our hobbies and interests, we have to say enough!

If this advice and these movements help you, please feel free to let me know. Write it in the comments below.


I appreciate you reading and let me know if I can be of further service to you.

Here’s to helping you reach your PINNACLE!

Dr. Brian Murphy , DPT, OCS, ATC, PES, TPI II Medical

Owner of PInnacle Physical Therapy

5507 Ranch Dr Suite 203

Little Rock, AR 72223



Prevention Strategies for the Injured Swimmer

"Coach, I just did my thousand warm up and my shoulder is killing me, what should I do?"

There are a lot of factors that go into determining why a swimmer is injured. I wanted to give you some tips and ideas on what you can do to try and treat these injuries on your own. 

Tip 1: The best strategy is to avoid injury before it comes! You must have a solid flexibility, strengthening, and endurance training program under your belt that you are performing consistently! 

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*Stay tuned for my video series that is going to give you this exact program! 

Tip 2: Careful monitoring of training volume, intensity, and duration will go a long way in calming down an injury. Complete rest is rarely indicated because of the deconditioning that develops. Certainly looking at adjusting the above parameters for a short time will give the athlete time to allow the healing process to be effective. 

Swimmers biking

Tip 3: Specifically for the shoulder, avoidance of using hand paddles is a good idea as these put more stress on the shoulder. Avoiding or limiting the painful stroke is also a good idea. Modification of the dry land training program will prevent continued stress to the injured area. 

Thank you Lord, I don't have to use paddles today! 

Thank you Lord, I don't have to use paddles today! 

Tip 4: Application of ice to the affected area helps to reduce pain and inflammation as well as proper use of anti-inflammatory drugs when appropriate will help reduce pain and improve function. 

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Tip 5: Have your coach take a look at your swim mechanics. Ensuring that you are swimming with correct technique goes a long way in avoiding increased stress to structures in your body that can cause pain. 

I hope these tips are helpful for you and keep you swimming and performing at your best. 

If you are still struggling to get your injury under control please reach out to me anytime at brian@pinnacledpt.com, or call me at 501-529-2010.

Come back next week for the start of the video series on exercises that you MUST be performing!

Thanks and Here's to Helping you Reach your Pinnacle! 


Swimmers, Why Do Your Shoulders Hurt?

All of those dedicated hours in the pool to get ready for your next big meet. Have you ever wondered why your shoulder hurts when you swim? I am going to write a series of blogs discussing some of the causes of shoulder pain in swimmers and what you can do about them. 

Shoulder Impingement

Anatomy of the Shoulder

Anatomically the shoulder joint is a very unstable joint. I equate it to a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. The ball is the head of your humerus (upper arm bone) and the tee is the glenoid fossa ( socket which is part of the scapula or shoulder blade). The shoulder relies heavily on ligaments, muscles, and cartilage to help provide stability. 

The shoulder joint from the back (left picture).  Shoulder joint from the front (right picture). And looking at the glenoid fossa (where the upper arm bone joins with the shoulder blade)

The shoulder joint from the back (left picture).  Shoulder joint from the front (right picture). And looking at the glenoid fossa (where the upper arm bone joins with the shoulder blade)

Impingement Explained

Impingement is when the humerus glides upward and causes stress on structures that sit under your acromion (part of your shoulder blade). There are a lot of pain sensitive structures that lie under this subacromial space, namely your rotator cuff musculature and your bursa sac. The rotator cuff is the musculature that helps to perform certain movements of the arm and shoulder blade as well as what helps to provide stability to the joint. A bursa sac is a fluid filled sac that helps to dampen forces and helps the shoulder joint move more freely. During the recovery phase or above water portion of the swim stroke the arm is going into a flexed and internally rotated position. This position along with the force of the water during hand entry puts a lot of stress on the shoulder joint and its surrounding structures. 

The supraspinatus muscle (shown below) and its tendon are often affected in impingement of the shoulder. 


This muscle plays a key role is stabilizing the head of the humerus to prevent it from migrating upward into the acromion. This muscle along with others are susceptible to fatigue as the swimmer's practice progresses. This is where performing specific dry land training exercises helps to strengthen and build the endurance of those muscles. 

Try this exercise: It has shown a large level of contraction in the supraspinatus muscle. Make sure you are using a weight that you can perform 2-3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Don't raise your arms straight ahead, but angled out slightly. 


If you can't seem to get a handle on your shoulder pain. Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail and I will be able to do a thorough assessment to find your impairments that are leading to the true cause of your pain. 

Click on Pinnacle Physical Therapy below to head to my website for more information about me and my practice. Please like my FB page 'Pinnacle Physical Therapy.' I will be posting some cool videos on there specifically to keep Central Arkansas Swimmers healthy!