MRI's and X-Rays Lie About The Cause of Back Pain
Many times the MRI or X-ray will say that there are bulging discs, facet hypertrophy, stenosis and other things. As important as those things are, it is even more important to understand whether or not they correlate with your symptoms.
If you are having lower back pain and butt pain, but the MRI says you have a disc herniation at L5-S1, it is probably not the cause of the lower back pain. The reason I say that is because the nerves that correspond to the L5-S1 dermatome area are located in the back of the leg and they control bladder and bowl movement. A significantly herniated L5-S1 disc would cause pain in the back of the leg and affect bowl and bladder function.
I am often asked what all of the findings mean. My answer generally is to first identify what if causing your back pain rather than reading thee MRI. While I think it is very important to get these imaging studies I place extreme attention in determining if the findings are what are really causing your problem.
For example, I have had patients whose MRI and X-rays actually show nothing, yet they are in incredible amounts of pain. So what good was the MRI in this case? By examining further and looking at a person's posture, muscle strength, muscle length, type of work, and type of recreational activities and habits, I can better diagnose what the problems could be.
Often people's pain originates from something that they do on a daily basis like their sleep position or the posture they assume while at work. Even though their MRI might read facet hypertrophy or stenosis, it could be one of the positions you are in daily that is making your problem worse and more painful.
This article is to help inform you that there is hope beyond just your imaging results. Even as bleak as you imaging results may be or sound, there is always something that you can change, modify or improve upon that can help you in the long run.
Even if you had a 7mm herniated disc at L4-5, a very large bulge, and had really bad numbness and tingling down the legs, you could still learn what positions to avoid, what positions to try and achieve, what stretches you can do comfortably and what strengthening exercises you could do to help provide some stability to the spine.
While MRI's and X-rays can be very helpful, I hope you can see that you have the opportunity to seek out additional advice and education on how to help improve the situation you are already in even if your imaging studies results don't paint such a great picture.
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Martin Schneckenberger is the head Physical Therapist and Back Pain Specialist for the Spinal Wellness Research Center.
The Spinal Wellness Research Center's mission is to cure your back pain at the core. In addition, our goal is to prevent future pain from occurring, increase strength, flexibility and endurance to get you back to your normal life active, balanced and pain free.
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