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Why My Lower Back Pain MRI Isn’t Showing Any Problems

Why My Lower Back Pain MRI Isn't Showing Any Problems

Are you one of the many millions of Americans who have been bothered by lower back pain? So, you finally stop putting it off and schedule an appointment to see your doctor. After your visit, your doctor orders an MRI to have your back looked at closer. Then, that MRI comes back with “mild degeneration at L4-5, slight bulge disc at L3-4 with mild stenosis at L4-5.” To you, those results might as well have come back in a different language.

You then go back to your doctor and he explains the results to you in vague terms. Basically, he recommends that you stop doing the activities that aggravate your lower back. For a better explanation, you ask which movements and activities you need to stop and your doctor says, “The big ones like squatting and bending.”

This is tough to hear because these are important movements you have to do every day. You then think to yourself, “How am I supposed to straighten up the house or go to the bathroom without squatting or bending?”

Symptoms and Causes of Lower Back Pain

It can even be tough for an experienced doctor to understand exactly why you are having pain in your lower back. An MRI can give a good indication of the condition of your spine. Many peoples’ spines aren’t in the best shape and have a lot of normal wear and tear over the course of their life. Those normal life mileages on your spine will affect the pain you experience, but that shouldn’t have to control your life.

Degenerated, bulged, and herniated discs are technically symptoms of bad movement patterns that, ultimately, put a strain on your body for too long.

However, some of these issues can be improved by adjusting your movement patterns in addition to attending regular physical therapy appointments. This then becomes more about a lifestyle change as opposed to a quick fix.

Signs of Degeneration in Your MRI Are Normal

Studies have shown that there are high percentages of degeneration present in many healthy, pain-free patients that undergo MRIs. It is apparent that a large number of MRI-based degenerative features can be attributed to the wear and tear of normal aging which doesn’t leave those living in pain.

Additional studies have shown that healthy people in their 40s show natural degeneration signs in their imaging:

Improve Your Movement to Fix Your Low Back Pain

By focusing on your daily movements and adjusting accordingly, you can ease your low back pain naturally and get back to living the life you had in the past.

When to Think About an MRI 

An MRI of the lumbar spine may be necessary if your back discomfort lasts longer than six weeks and does not improve with painkillers or physical therapy. Don’t hurry to imaging if your back discomfort is an isolated illness because MRIs are routinely abused. Do not wait six weeks or try to treat your pain with over-the-counter drugs or physical therapy if you have specific red flag diseases including infections, cauda equina syndrome, fractures, or malignancies. Instead, seek immediate medical advice. They’ll assist you in deciding whether to get imaging done early. 

You might want to ask a few questions if your doctor suggests getting an MRI, such as: 

What Kinds of Back Pain Can an MRI Help Diagnose? 

The best use of MRIs is to diagnose neuropathic back pain, which is a type of back pain brought on by a nerve. Back discomfort may have nerve-related reasons, such as: 

How Reliable Are Lower Back Pain MRI Results and Related Diagnoses? 

MRIs are useful for detecting disc and spinal problems. While these problems may result in back discomfort, this isn’t always the case. Simply put, a herniated disc can exist without causing lower back discomfort. And you could experience lower back discomfort without any disc or vertebral issues.

Overall, there isn’t much of a connection between MRI findings, MRI-related issues, and lower back discomfort. Based on all the information that is available, including your family history and physical examinations, your doctor should make a determination. When developing a diagnostic and treatment strategy for back pain reduction, the MRI imaging should just be one element, not the main focus.

Learn How to Move Better with Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a natural option that has brought many patients back to living pain-free. Our Expert Mike King is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and has helped countless patients recover from lower back pain. He has even helped many people use physical therapy as an alternative to undergoing surgery and giving them the freedom of movement after years of dealing with severe pain. MRIs are a great technology for finding degeneration, but better understanding your movement is the key to living a pain-free life!

Schedule an appointment with our Desert Edge Physical Therapy team today and ask about our Free Discovery Session. We look forward to helping you on your wellness journey!


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published on Saturday, September 10th, 2022