MRI can be really helpful, but not always. It can be misleading.
Before you ask or are offered a scan, consider these aspects:
- How much pain am I in?
- Have I waited long enough?
- Have I tried strengthening exercises?
- What can the scan show me?
- What is ‘wear and tear’, what might that mean to me?
- If it shows something unusual, how will I know that it is part of my pain presentation or could I have had it for ages?
- Would I have an operation to rectify it , if it did show unwanted results?
- Have I tried Graded Exposure?
- Have I spoken to someone who understands pain?
- Is there more I could do to help myself?
If you have decided that you do not want an operation, then having a scan may be unhelpful. If it is recommended by your doctor and you have tried most of the above, then a scan may be part of your answer. Studies show that once patients have the their scan and the results are poor , they tend to be in more pain and feel worse, not better. Remember the scan may not be the misleading.
Bad news is a nocibo, just as good new is a placebo. This is an interesting article from the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1AxXpNC
Case Study for MRI
I once had a client with a sore back, we worked together for a few weeks. We talked about pain science, his lifestyle, happiness, sense fulfilment and his stress levels. All of which can play into persistent pain. He was determined that a scan was the answer. In this case, it all turned out well, because the scan showed no problems at all. There were only the normal ‘kisses of time’, which we all have to some degree.
My client had been sure that there was some thing seriously wrong, how could his back hurt so much, unless there was a major problem? The back ache disappeared with in days and he had had it for many months. Now, I’m guessing, however, that if the scan had shown a bulging disc, slightly more ‘kisses of time’, (disc degeneration) his back ache would have persisted. He would be considering an operation.
Remember therefor, you can have a lot of pain and mild tissue injury (as in a paper cut). There is only a weak correlation between pain and tissue damage. You may not need an MRI scan.
Take a look at “Why things hurt” by Lorimer Moseley to help with a greater understanding of pain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwd-wLdIHjs