Back pain – do scans help me?

I have back pain – do I need an xray or scan?

Following on from our article last week by Hamish Ashton, Senior Physiotherapist with #teamvhap on back pain here are some facts on whether scans are beneficial or needed in most cases.

Current guidelines for low back pain recommend against routine use of plain x-rays (XR) or other imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerised tomography (CT) in the absence of red flags in non-specific low back pain (LBP) of less than 12 weeks duration.

What is a red flag?

A red flag is a sign or symptom that you have that is suggestive that there may be something very serious going on such as having a fracture, and infection or neoplasm. The main other red flag is symptoms suggesting major compromise to a nerve such as major weakness or loss of bladder or bowel function.

Why are scans not recommended?

In cases where there are no red flags present, findings from xrays and scans are have been shown to be unrelated to pain or loss of function. It has also been suggested that having these without cause can lead to unnecessary procedures and a worse outcome for your pain.

Recent studies looking at people with no history at all of low back pain have shown changes in your back are normal and become increasingly common as you get older.

These changes therefore are no different from when you get wrinkles or grey hair – cosmetic only in nature and normal as you age. And just like wrinkles and grey hair some of us may have more changes than others.

I have back pain, what should I do?

In most cases, back pain will settle within a few days.  Seeing a Physiotherapist first can help address the problem and the symptoms.  In many cases exercise alone with some manual therapy will help to solve a significant part, if not all of your pain and your symptoms within a few weeks.

To make an appointment please call 4927 8190 and ask for an appointment with Hamish Ashton.


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