Are MRI scans as good as we think and believe

Can you rely on MRI scan’s?

Blog produced by Jason Dodd Clinic Manager, Sports Therapist and member of the Physiotherapy and Musculo-Skeletal Team at Bodylogics The Sports Therapy Clinic.

There is a common belief by many patients and healthcare professionals that an MRI scan will definitively tell them what is causing their pain.  However, its just not this easy and sometimes MRI scans can lead to more problems than they solve. The big problem with MRIs and all other scans is the high variability in the interpretation of what is seen on them.

Take this study here.  This study followed ONE patient with stable but chronic low back pain having 10 different scans at 10 different centres within 3 weeks.  The results of these 10 scans highlighted 49 different problems, yet NOT ONE of these findings was reported on all 10 scans .

So what does this tell us?

It tells us quite a lot. Basically, whats one radiologists facet joint arthropathy is another’s normal age related changes. Whats one radiologists disc herniation is another’s degenerative disc disease… etc etc!  The point being that people go to see ‘specialists’ in certain area’s and will often take the information presented to them at face value and go with the suggestion that is offered to them. But this study shows that these interpretations are not always accurate. I am not trying to be cynical here. My own professional capabilities do not extend to having the skill set to fully understand MRI findings, etc…. but I do not claim to be a specialist in this area. My specialism lies in other areas. 

This is not to say MRIs or other scans are useless or should never be used. In the presence of serious or sinister signs and symptoms MRIs and other radiology tests are invaluable to help make fast accurate diagnosis and quick treatment.

However without any of these serious or sinister signs or symptoms MRIs can and do lead to over and misdiagnosis.

It has to be remembered that scans are there to exclude the worst of the worst, when it comes to everything else they can NOT and do NOT tell us where pain is coming from.

So what is our advice?

Simple, do not always believe everything you hear first off. It can be frustrating because we wait so long for physiotherapy appointments or GP appointments and if you can get a diagnosis with treatment included then we are likely to accept this help. However, what if this diagnosis is not accurate. What if there were something much more simple causing the pain and you suddenly opt for surgery based on the recommendation of a ‘specialist’? The risks of surgery are high and there is limited evidence of its effects too. 

Always look to seek a second opinion and see if there are other alternatives that can help you manage the pain better (e.g, some simple life modifications can greatly reduce lower back pain as well as the introduction of some simple daily exercises). You should not feel afraid to request or seek this either. A confident clinician should be comfortable in any challenge of a diagnosis or be able to offer advice on alternative consultants who you can see so you can get more reassurance as to what is causing the issue. At the end of the day, all healthcare professionals should be interested in helping people get the best care possible, not about their own ego!

How can Bodylogics help?

We are the leading Sports Therapy Clinic in North London, offering Sports MassagePhysiotherapy, OsteopathySports Rehabilitation and many more services, all of which are designed to get you back to being pain free and to enable you to get the best from your body.  Our Team are made up of specialists in different areas and we are confident we have a Team member who will be able to offer you the correct maintenance programme to keep you injury free or offer you the advice and treatment plan that will have you back to full fitness in the shortest time possible.  We do not cut corners, we offer genuine, true advice in order to give you the best chance of success.  We are proud of our reputation we have built and we are confident that you will share the thoughts of many others after visiting us.

To get in touch please see the information below and we look forward to welcoming you to Bodylogics The Sports Therapy Clinic in the near future.

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