Medical imaging – specifically MRIs, are a commonly used as a diagnostic tool for medical practitioners around the globe. MRIs are great at what they do – that is, allow clinicians to noninvasively see anatomical structures deep within the body. However, MRIs can often be misleading or unnecessary when used to identify the cause of back pain.

MRIs of the lumbar spine frequently show disc herniation, spinal stenosis, arthritis, etc. But how does knowing this information affect you? Generating a picture of the problem area does not alleviate pain, and frequently doesn’t highlight the root cause of pain. Recent research has suggested that medical imaging of the low back frequently produces “false alarms” – that is, show abnormalities that are not the case of pain. 

Physical therapy offers the ability to evaluate and treat the cause of low back pain prior to receiving an MRI.  Seeking out PT treatment prior to resorting to medical imaging has saved countless victims of low back pain from unnecessarily spending thousands.  

“Ninety percent of patients with low back pain will respond to things like medication and goal-directed physical therapy, and they do not need imaging at all,” — Dr. F. Todd Wetzel, MD

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