Lower Back Pain Myths 2 – I need a scan!…Or do you?

All too commonly patients are seeking an x-ray or MRI to help establish the cause of their symptoms, guide treatment, provide a faster recovery, reduce the costs of healthcare and may influence the outcome. This isn’t necessary as studies have shown that very rarely do scans match up with symptoms, it doesn’t benefit treatment, results tend to be unclear or misleading, costs the health system more, may make you worse and could increase the likelihood of ineffective treatment. This is demonstrated in research which scanned pain free populations which showed disc bulges/protrusions in around one third of those under 40, half of those between the ages of 40-60 and a high chance in the over 60’s as expected.

Patients with significant pain can present with pristine images and on the flip side, pain free populations can have a poor looking image which may show excessive degeneration, disc bulges, fissures for a few examples which are all part of ageing and are typically referred to as ‘age-related changes’ or another way of putting it – internal wrinkles! Just like our skin progressively breaks down and begins to wrinkle as we age, the same can be said for what happens internally. So, what does this mean? Imaging isn’t typically required as it doesn’t change what the optimal management solution is – mobilise, exercise and strengthen. There’s no harm in getting strong and we are made to move!

The key message is that our bodies are made to move. At Pure, our Physiotherapists – as movement specialists, are a primary port of call to consult on implementing individualised movement programs to mitigate these wrongly engrained pain responses to normal movements such as bending forward. We will be able to help you develop and implement a tailored self-management and exercise program to help control you lower back pain symptoms and reduce the likelihood of progressively worsening symptoms. We can also support your recovery with soft tissue techniques, manual therapy and acupuncture.