A number of years ago, I was in the neurosurgeon’s office viewing the results from the MRI of my lumbar spine. I shuddered at the image – it looked like a train wreck.
My surgeon and I discussed my options for dealing with the severe chronic pain supposedly caused by the “abnormalities” revealed on the MRI. I decided to try physical therapy, steroidal epidural injections and medications.
But the pain persisted, unrelenting…. day after day, month after month, year after year.
After a couple of years, I was ready to try surgery. I underwent a successful laminectomy and understood that there was a 95% chance of relieving my debilitating sciatica.
One year after the surgery I was STILL in pain. I believed that my surgeon had done a thorough job in correcting the issues responsible for the sciatic pain…so what was going on?
You can read the story of my recovery here, but now I want to talk about how MRI’s can lead to needless distress and suffering. The patient believes he/she is damaged and needs to be “fixed.”
Dr. Howard Schubiner explains: “People without back pain have the same MRI findings, such as bulging or herniated discs and degenerative changes, as those with back pain.
How can an MRI result deceive? There have been several studies showing that MRI’s are abnormal in normal people. When an MRI is done in people who have no back pain, the majority of people have some kind of abnormality…
By the way, MRI studies of people with no shoulder, hip or knee pain also show a variety of abnormalities such as rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and meniscal tears, respectively.
When you put these studies together with studies of people with back pain, you find that about half of adults with back pain have abnormal MRI’s and about half of adults without back pain have abnormal MRI’s; and the findings on these MRI’s are virtually identical.”
The above information is from numerous studies conducted over the last few decades and published in The New England Journal of Medicine and other notable journals. (contact me for specifics)
“While the MRI scan represents a very sensitive and accurate assessment of spinal anatomy, it cannot distinguish between painful and non-painful structures in the spine. …Thus, the findings on MRI scans do not constitute a diagnosis…” Philip R. Shalen, M.D.
I believe that many physicians simply ignore or are unaware of these studies and assume that all MRI abnormalities are the cause of pain.
My own recovery was based on my understanding that the source of my pain was not related to the physical abnormalities detected on the MRI, but rather to learned pain pathways in the brain and hyper stimulation of the central nervous system causing severe, prolonged muscle tension. Here is the link to my story again.
I hope this information is illuminating and brings you a new awareness and hopeful outlook!
And, as always….remember – YOU hold the key!