Low Back Pain and X-Ray Findings

So why is it that when your spine clearly shows signs of wear and tear, you\’re no more likely to have back pain than the next person (who may not have any signs of wear and tear)?  It’s complicated…

In order to fully understand this, you’d have to understand pain mechanisms (more on that coming in future posts – meantime, check three types of pain).   Where does this surprising fact leave you?  First, X-Ray’s are not recommended for the vast majority of low back pain – it’s a waste of time and resources.  Secondly, if you have an abnormality on X-Ray and you have low back pain, do not assume that the two are related; lots of people have terrible wear and tear on X-Ray, but no pain.  It’s often fair to say that degenerative changes (wear and tear) can mean low back pain takes longer to settle, but most things take longer to heal as we get older – and degenerative changes are a normal part of the aging process.

Other investigations are often no better at pinning down the source of your pain.  A thorough clinical examination and listening to your story in detail are more likely to help you formulate a plan for getting better than worrying about a bit of wear and tear on an X-Ray!

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