Does an image really show you the full picture?

X-rays and MRIs are an important and powerful tool but can be misunderstood.

X-rays are the most commonly used technique for imaging and are frequently used to assess bones and MRI’s are better used for diagnosing joint problems and evaluating soft tissue injuries, including any damage to tendons and ligaments.

When going for an X-ray or an MRI people assume any findings from this must be the reason for the pain that they are feeling. However some of these findings are completely normal and are not linked to the pain they experience!

According to the research, 80% of asymptomatic (pain free) 50 year olds have disc degeneration, which is also known  commonly as ‘wear and tear’, and 40% of people in their 30’s are walking around with a disc bulge in their neck without even realising it.

This is so important to understand as people are commonly given a diagnosis of having degenerative changes to their spine and therefore believe the pain they are experiencing must be linked to that. However this research has proven that it is a normal part of the ageing process which starts from a young age. Although these changes of ageing aren’t reversible, they are manageable for the majority of individuals.

As Chiropractor we use important assessment techniques to assess muscles and joints, and often these findings do not show up on images. So therefore remember that images don’t always define your pain and when suffering with a musculoskeletal complaint a physical/manual therapist can be an alternative option to medication or surgery.

Brinjikji, W., Luetmer, P.H., Comstock, B., Bresnahan, B. W., Chen, L. E., Deyo, R. A., …& Wald, J.T. (2015).

Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 36(4), 811-816.

Above blog written by Chiropractor Samantha Allen. If you would like more help with your neck pain and to find out if you really need an MRI book your Chiropractic consultation now or call us on 0203 633 0565. Samantha is available Tuesdays and Thursdays.