Do I need imaging of my back?

X-Ray or MRI?

Harry Hampson

August 8, 2018

Do I need imaging of my back?

One of the most common questions asked by patients is whether they need an MRI or X-Ray of their back. Understandably, having low back pain can be a worrying experience and everybody wants to know the reason for it!

However, low back pain is very common, with up to 84% of the population experiencing it at some point in their life. Majority of these cases (95%) are totally benign and without a specific cause. This means that there is no serious cause such as fracture, infection, cancer, or other underlying condition.

Based on your pain history and signs & symptoms, your osteopath or GP will be able decide which category you are more likely to fit in.

Signs that mean you should see your GP/A&E

  • Following a fall from a great height
  • Groin area numbness
  • Loss of control of your bowels or urination
  • Extreme weakness of your arms and/or legs

If you fit into the 95% group where there is no serious cause for your back pain, then imaging of your spine is unlikely to show anything useful. In most cases imaging doesn’t show the reason for the pain and there is little correlation between this and the intensity or disability experienced.

Studies have shown that changes on the spine are normal and common in asymptomatic patients. This means a person in pain may have the exact findings of a person with no pain. This imaging rarely changes the management or treatment of the pain.

Osteopaths are trained at recognising the signs to indicate that a scan may be of benefit. They are also trained at performed specific tests that can identify the structures that are currently sensitised. This information can be used to recommend a treatment plan with hands on treatment, an exercise plan, and goal setting aimed at helping you return to your previous activities.

If you have any concerns or want to make an appointment please just call or book online.