When Do You Need an Imaging Test for Back Pain?

22 Jun

If you have a back pain. you may be tempted to run to your doctor and request an X-ray or MRI. But that’s rarely helpful.

One of the biggest misconceptions about these screening tests is that we can easily ID the cause from them.” says Richard Deyo, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of evidence-based medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. “The reality is, older adults usually have something that shows up on an X-ray or MRI, like worn-out or bulging disks. But oftentimes that’s not the cause of the problem”

Consider imaging if you’ve had pain for six weeks and it’s not getting better, says Deyo. In that case, a pinched nerve may be contributing to the problem.

You should contact your doctor immediately for an imaging test if you have back pain along with unexplained weight loss, a fever over 102F, loss of control of your bowel or bladder, loss of strength or numbness in one or both legs, or a history of cancer. These may be signs of nerve damage, infection, or a tumor.

Source: Consumer Reports on Health June 2018

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