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Should MRI's Be Used to Diagnose Low Back Pain?

By Randi Morse 

The miracles of modern medicine are astounding. Thanks to today's technological advances, it is much easier for doctors to diagnose and treat their patients. There has long been a debate about how much testing is truly necessary to diagnose a patient. One such debate involves back pain and diagnostic testing. Should doctors be using machines such as MRI's in order to diagnose low back pain? 

Too Much Testing 

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and has been the center of the medical testing debate since the early 1990s. Back then there were critics who said that many of the MRI scans performed in California were motivated by profit. Using this equipment to test a patient is expensive, and occasionally insurance companies don't want to cover that expense. 

Low Back Pain 

When it comes to testing low back pain, the American College of Physicians, and the American Pain Society, created guidelines to help manage low back pain. In these guidelines they specifically state that expensive image testing for low back pain tends to lead to a misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, many doctors still don't understand that patients who complain of low back pain likely do not need to undergo an MRI. In fact, not only should doctors avoid ordering an MRI for low back pain to help save the expense, they also should avoid it to help prevent misdiagnosis. 

Muddy Waters 

Having an MRI test done to help diagnose your low back pain may produce a false positive. For example, there are many times when people get a slipped disc. What your doctor may not tell you is that slipped discs are often likely to resolve on their own. If your physician orders an MRI and notices the slipped disc, they may prescribe narcotics, which many patients do not want to take unless they find it a necessity, or they may even schedule surgery to repair the situation. 

But what if that disc goes back into alignment all on its own? Your doctor may think they're doing the right thing because the MRI told them what was wrong, but they may rush to judgment, which could cause you to pay a great deal more money, and deal with much more hassle, then you should have. This doesn't mean that you should avoid an MRI if your physician orders one. Instead of simply defying your doctor, ask your doctor if the test is medically necessary.  

When it comes to dealing with low back pain, you may find yourself better served to visit your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic. Chiropractors are experts on back pain and are often able to diagnose, and treat, back problems directly from their office and prevent the prescription of addictive painkillers or surgery. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Columbia, South Carolina.

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