Do I Need an MRI for My Back Pain?
I don’t treat MRI’s. I treat people.
One of the most frustrating things as a Physical Therapist is someone coming in with MRI results and telling me they want me to treat their degenerative disc problem.
First of all, your MRI doesn’t tell you why you are sore, it just shows the layout of an area of your back at one time. An MRI is essentially a photograph of your back, and photographs don’t tell you what is happening to you, just how you look. The problem here isn’t with the person coming in for treatment. It is with the person who presented them with the MRI and the fear-mongering which comes with MRI reports.
If a photograph shows you not smiling, that doesn’t mean you are unhappy. If an MRI shows a disc bulging, that doesn’t mean you are in pain because of that. Maybe you were smiling 2 seconds before the photo, and maybe you were more relaxed before the MRI and your disc wasn’t bulging.
Similarly, If you see a photograph of you on a night out with a drink in your hand, that doesn’t mean you have a drink problem. If you see an MRI with a disc protrusion, that doesn’t mean you have a back problem.
Imagine the difference between a photo of you when you were 20 compared to when you are 60. What’s the big difference? Wrinkles. Are those wrinkles painful? I don’t think so. Disc degeneration is essentially wrinkles on your discs, they’re not necessarily causing you pain.
These are some of the most common findings on MRI reports of the low back or neck, but it is so important to realise that these findings may not be the reason you are in pain. A countless amount of research has been done on MRI’s and the relevance of their findings. They all come back with the same results. Your MRI findings is rarely associated with your pain.
Here are some MRI results of people who were completely PAIN FREE!
If any person from this study had bent over quickly and hurt their back the day before getting this MRI done, they would likely be referred for surgery. This is because they are in pain and the MRI shows something is ‘wrong’. But what these studies show is that these changes, or discrepancies are perfectly normal occurrences in the human body.
And it’s not just the case in the back, here is a graph showing results from PAIN FREE people who had MRI’s in other parts of the body:
Even if you don’t know what any of these findings mean, they sound scary. If you see them on your MRI, you tend to worry. This worry can affect your progress and slow it down, because you are suddenly afraid of making things worse. This is the problem with MRI’s in a nutshell, it instills fear in people and causes you to be afraid to move the way you should.
So how can I fix your back pain if I don’t know what is wrong?
You tell me your story. Tell me where you are sore, when you are sore, why you are sore. Tell me what you can’t do and what you could do before the back pain. I piece all this together and I don’t just treat the pain. I figure out where that pain came from initially and help prevent it from coming back again. You cannot get any of that information from an MRI.
Still not convinced? Why not book a FREE consultation and tell me your story. Don’t worry if you feel you can’t tell the story, I’ll ask all the right questions. If I can’t help you, I will tell you who can. So, don’t get an MRI. If you already got one, bring me the results and I will explain exactly what everything on the report means.