This is a question I’m often asked. Sometimes people think they need to get x-rays before they come to see me so I can have a better idea of what’s going on with their low back. The truth is, the vast majority of people with low back pain do NOT need to get x-rays or other imaging like an MRI.
Now there are times when an x-ray or MRI is useful and even necessary. They include after a fall or trauma, when a fracture needs to be ruled out or if there has been a sudden and unexplained change in neurological function (changes in muscle strength, reflexes or sensation). Other than those instances, imaging really fails to clarify why your low back hurts.
In fact, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society guidelines for low back pain management specifically state that imaging only be ordered “for patients with low back pain when severe or progressive neurologic deficits are present or when serious underlying conditions are suspected.”
In physical therapy we treat your back based on your specific signs and symptoms, not based on your x-ray or MRI. I often tell patients “I treat you, NOT your x-ray.” And, your back pain will likely improve in one or two physical therapy sessions even though your x-ray will look exactly the same.
So if you experience low back pain, getting an x-ray or MRI shouldn’t be your first step. Talk to a physical therapist to see what types of treatments are best for you. You will be saving time and money!
If you have back pain and want to know exactly what to do about it, click the link below to request a free discovery visit at Momentum Physical Therapy.
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If i stay too long lying in bed, I feel more pain in my lower back
How long is too long Grace? -Amy