Hey there, fellow back pain sufferer! 

It’s no secret that lower back pain can be, well, a real pain. And during these winter months there’s a good chance you’re less active than normal. And you’re not alone.  Lower back pain is one of the top reasons people visit their doctor.

But have you ever considered getting an MRI scan of your back to help identify the problem and fix it? It’s a pretty common belief, but is it really the best idea?

Here’s my thoughts – There is a time and a place in care where an MRI might be needed.  While an MRI can show detailed images of your spine and any abnormalities like disk degeneration, bulges, herniation, joint arthritis, and more, it can be tricky to determine which findings are actually causing your pain. It is only one piece of the puzzle to figuring out what is causing the problem.

Upon doing some research I saw a recent study that found patients who had an MRI earlier in their care for lower back pain had worse outcomes, more surgeries, and higher costs compared to those who didn’t have an MRI. Not good! 

And get this: research shows that up to 64% of people have some type of disk problem without ever experiencing back pain. So even if an MRI shows a disk problem, it might not actually be the root cause of your lower back pain. 

Don’t get me wrong, an MRI can be helpful if a surgical treatment decision depends on the findings or if you have weakness, numbness, or non-resolving lower back pain despite 4-6 weeks of non-surgical care. But generally, it’s unnecessary for most cases of lower back pain. In fact, it could even end up confusing you and your doctor.

So, before you go scheduling an MRI, make sure to talk to a healthcare professional (or trusted Chiropractor!) who can help determine the best course of action for your specific needs.