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Treat the (wo)man, not the scan: When scan findings can be ‘normal’

Jul 29, 2021

Treat the (wo)man, not the scan: When scan findings can be ‘normal’

Jul 29, 2021

When you have pain, an x-ray or an MRI can be very important if there is suspicion of a serious disease.

For example, a fracture, cancer, an infection, a serious inflammatory condition, or a nerve compression.

However, many people get unnecessary scans. This is very common in people with back pain, hip pain, and knee pain.

When these scans are interpreted as signs of medical conditions, many people can be referred for unnecessary treatments, including surgery and injections.

‘Findings’ on scans are very common in people who have no pain. They are often a part of the normal aging process.

Let’s take the lower back of people who have do NOT have low back pain:

Disc degeneration increases in presence from 37% of 20-year-old individuals to 96% of 80-year-olds.

Disc bulges increases in presence from 30% of 20-years-old individuals to 84% of 80-year-old individuals.

Disk protrusion increases in presence from 29% of those 20 years of age to 43% of those 80 years of age.

Annular fissures increases in presence from 19% of those 20 years of age to 29% of those 80 years of age.

Scan-Findings-Results
Scan-Findings-Statistics

Remember, this is in people with NO low back pain.

An individual may have lots of findings on their scan have no pain.

Equally, a person may have no findings on a scan have lots of pain.

Scans can be very important for some people. But, pain can be driven by lots of factors, outside of what we see on a scan.

Back pain can be influenced by a range of physical (e.g. movement), psychological (e.g. fear of damage, anxiety), lifestyle (e.g. sleep, stress), social factors (e.g. work environment, loneliness).

If you are afraid of your scan findings, and unsure what they mean for you and returning to hobbies and exercise, please get in touch with us at MSK Clinic Physio to explain it to you.

You can find the study here.

Do you have an issues?

Please get in touch or book in for an assessment.

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