Why It May Be Unnecessary
Imaging for first-time lower-back pain may be unnecessary. It might not reveal the cause, and could also complicate treatment. According to Max Wintermark, MD, chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University, "if you take 100 random people and do an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] of their lumbar spine, a number of people without pain will show the same abnormal findings as those with pain." One study found that 81 percent of adults with no symptoms showed a bulging disk.
Finding an abnormality doesn't mean it's the source of the pain, and treating based on scan results might lead a patient down a road of potentially unhelpful interventions, including surgery.
At best, imaging results likely will not change the treatment recommendation:
In many instances, doctors will prescribe
physical therapy no matter what a scan reveals.
WHAT TO TRY INSTEAD:
A combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy for six weeks. Revisit the option of imaging only if pain has not improved.
If you have red flags such as numbness or osteoporosis, imaging may be necessary.
Call The Smith Clinic For Physical Therapy today at 901-756-1650 to schedule an assessment with one of our Physical Therapists. We can help determine the best course of action for your back pain!