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Patient Education: Diseases Conditions Treatments & Procedures

Back pain

What about my Xrays, CT Scan and MRI?

In the past doctors used to rely on spine xrays to diagnose back pain. However, as long as the history and physical examination are as expected for the common garden variety myofascial pain, then xrays have little value in diagnosis. Many spine xray findings are as common in those people without pain as in those with pain. The same is true for CT scans and MRI scans. These special tests are more sensitive in finding these radiological abnormalities, (which really are common age and common wear and tear findings), but have no real clinical significance. CT scans and MRI are very good if your surgeon suspects a disc herniation or stenosis or is concerned about a dangerous medical cause of back pain. But for the vast majority of the time, being focused on these radiological reports is like fishing for red herrings.

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