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Back Pain Myth 3 – A scan will tell me exactly what’s wrong

Sep 12, 2016

To coincide with World Physiotherapy Day, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) have produced a series of evidence based myth busters to tackle the common myths surrounding back pain.

The CSP are busting myths about back pain and reinforcing what the latest evidence says is best for your back.

Back Pain Myth 3 – A scan will tell me exactly what’s wrong

There is a large and growing body of research that shows that not only do results of scans correlate poorly with symptoms in people with Low Back Pain, but also that most people without Low Back Pain have changes on scans and x-rays that do not cause any symptoms at all.

For these reasons and more, imaging alone isn’t capable of telling us exactly why someone is experiencing pain.

Of course this does not mean that all MRI scans are irrelevant in all cases, but it does mean that they are not always necessary or helpful. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that in some cases, having a scan can make situations worse.

back pain myth 3


References

Teraguchi et al, (2013) Prevalence and distribution of intervertebral disc degeneration over the entire spine in a population-based cohort: the Wakayama Spine Study.

Videman et al, (2003) Associations Between Back Pain History and Lumbar MRI Findings
Cheung et al, (2009) Prevalence and Pattern of Lumbar Magnetic Resonance Imaging Changes in a Population Study of One Thousand Forty-Three Individuals.

Endcan et al, (2011) Potential of MRI findings to refine case definition for mechanical low back pain in epidemiological studies: a systematic review.

Brinjikji et al, (2015) MRI Findings of Disc Degeneration are More Prevalent in Adults with Low Back Pain than in Asymptomatic Controls: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Webster et al, (2010) Relationship of early magnetic resonance imaging for work-related acute low back pain with disability and medical utilization outcomes.

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