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Do you need an MRI for your back pain?

Myth busting about MRI’s for back pain

Common Misconceptions about MRI’s

There are more than a few weird ideas about back pain. We can’t possibly cover all of them but we wanted to touch on a few of them. If you have heard of others not mentioned here or in other blog posts, feel free to comment here or pass them our way.

Myth: “I need an MRI or CT scan to see what is causing my back pain.”

Old school thinking focused on what is called the Structural Diagnosis and treatment. In the business, we refer to this as the Patho-Anatomic model. Billions of dollars have been spent on trying to chase a structural diagnosis for people’s back pain. Unfortunately, improvements in diagnostic and treatment technologies have not resulted in better outcomes. The results have now been labeled as one of the biggest medical disasters of modern times.

Research has now shown that advanced imaging such as CT scans and MRI are reserved to identify serious causes of back pain, commonly referred to as Red Flags. This includes things like fractures, infections, cancer and pinched nerves. Collectively, this amounts to 1-2% of all back pain sufferers. A good clinician is very aware of this and can help you determine if that kind of imaging is appropriate for you.

The main problem with imaging such as MRI and CT scans is they find “normal” pathology often not responsible for back pain. Findings such as:

  • Disc degeneration
  • Disc bulges or herniations
  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal stenosis

Take Home Message: Research has shown that these types of findings are found just as often in people with or without back pain.

We now know that most back pain is caused by poor function. Poor movement patterns done over and over again gradually overstraining the back and sensitizing the tissues to a point where pain is felt, even under very low loads. MRI’s and CT scans cannot take a picture of poor function.

At National Spine Care, we cover this and much more in Spine Boot Camp so if you want to learn more, contact us.


Call us at (403) 270-7252 to book your MRI Back Pain consultation appointment today!

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