Too many people get sent off for scans (including X-rays and MRIs) and told that their back pain is caused by whatever the doctors find on those scans.

This is simply NOT TRUE! That’s right, medical scans rarely show what is actually causing your pain. Why? There are many, many studies looking at MRI scans of people who have never had back pain at all. That’s right, no back pain at all, yet the results show disc bulges, arthritis and a whole bunch of other spinal conditions.

So what does this mean for you?
Disc bulges and arthritis are normal ageing changes of the spine.  Many people have them and have never felt a day of pain. Scans are great at showing stuff, but they’re not great at telling us how relevant that stuff is to your pain. They are a “snapshot” of your spine, they do not show how things may or may not move.  There is no way of knowing how long those things have been present for. If you’re not careful its easy to be misinformed about what is causing you back pain, which can then lead to ineffective, costly treatment and more pain and worry that is not necessary.

So why have them at all?
Seeing things on imaging and relating them to your clinical presentation does help sometimes, it can give peace of mind knowing it is or isn’t something. Excluding pathological disease is always a relief for people. Just make sure you see a professional that actually wants the best outcome for you (and not their profit) and you should be fine. The national average amount of treatments required for an osteopath treating low back pain is 4.62 treatments.  This statistic is produced by ACC.  I must stress that a consultation with any credible health professional will inform you of a predicted prognosis, ie how many treatments should this take, and when will this prognosis be reviewed if progress is not happening as expected.  Don’t let yourself go through 10 treatments without the health professional explaining why it is taking so long or why they haven’t obtained further information.