Lower Back Pain: Do I need a scan?
Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the biggest reasons for people to visit their Doctor or Physio, especially as we age. Many people become quite fearful of back pain and rush to their Doctors asking to have scans done to see what’s going on in there. However, studies show that MRI findings (including disc degeneration, disc bulges and disc protrusions) do not always correlate with a person’s pain experience.
In the image above, statistics show the prevalence of structural changes in the lumbar spine seen on imaging in ASYMPTOMATIC individuals (aka, people who do NOT have lower back pain). These changes are a normal part of the body’s ageing process and are frequently seen in healthy people without any symptoms or pain whatsoever.
Imaging is certainly important when a thorough assessment reveals potential red flags, however we need to be careful not to get overwhelmed or fixated on the results, especially when we do not have pain. X-Rays, CT and MRI scans are rarely necessary before starting Physio, and most findings don’t necessarily reflect the pain you might be experiencing. Physiotherapists are highly skilled in identifying serious pathology and will always advise you if a scan is required, but in most cases, scans will not guide our treatment. Our backs are strong, flexible and designed to move, so please don’t be fearful when it comes to your lower back. See your Physio to help guide you!