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Dealing with Severe Back Pain: Is an MRI Necessary for Diagnosis?

If you’re contending with severe back pain, the question of whether an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is essential for an accurate diagnosis arises. In this article, we’ll delve into the role of MRIs in diagnosing soft tissue injuries specifically related to lower back pain. We’ll explore their cost implications and determine when MRIs become a crucial component in the treatment process. Our Eltham Physiotherapists are able to diagnose and advise whether you need a scan or not.

Herniated Discs Shown in Scan

Unlocking the Power of MRI for Lower Back Pain

MRI, short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, emerges as a pivotal diagnostic tool tailored for severe lower back pain. Unlike X-rays that focus primarily on bones and cartilage, MRIs provide a comprehensive view, capturing detailed images of soft tissue structures such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This makes MRIs especially effective in identifying injuries beyond fractures or arthritic changes in the lower back region.

Demystifying the MRI Process

In layman’s terms, an MRI machine uses powerful magnets to create a magnetic field within the body. Protons in the body align with this field, and a radiofrequency current is applied, causing the protons to spin out of equilibrium. When the radiofrequency current is turned off, sensors in the MRI machine detect the energy released as the protons realign, creating detailed images of the lower back and surrounding structures.

Evaluating Cost Factors

Private MRI scans for lower back pain can range between £199-£399, whereas private X-ray scans are more affordable at £55-£150. It’s noteworthy that each X-ray scan costs the NHS £75, while an MRI scan can cost the NHS approximately £130-£340. These cost disparities contribute to the NHS’s cautious approach to recommending MRIs for every lower back pain case.

The Vital Role of Physiotherapy

At Clearcut Physiotherapy Eltham, we often encounter clients frustrated about the absence of an initial MRI scan. In most cases, however, an immediate MRI is not the starting point for physiotherapy. During the initial assessment, we gather detailed information about your lower back pain history and conduct thorough examinations. This enables us to form a clinical diagnosis based on the injury presentation without immediate reliance on MRI imaging.

Effective Treatment Paths without Immediate MRI

Our experience reveals that a substantial number of lower back pain cases respond well to physiotherapy without the immediate need for an MRI. Similar soft tissue responses allow us to craft tailored treatment plans, facilitating successful recovery without immediate diagnostic imaging.

When is an MRI Essential for Lower Back Pain?

An MRI becomes essential if, after a course of physiotherapy, expected progress isn’t achieved. In such cases, an MRI helps determine whether medicative or surgical intervention is necessary for complete recovery. It’s crucial to note that doctors and consultants typically prioritise physiotherapy as the primary treatment option before considering diagnostic imaging, medication, or surgery.

In conclusion, the decision to undergo an MRI for severe lower back pain hinges on the progress made through physiotherapy. Trusting the process and exploring non-invasive treatments first often leads to successful recovery without immediate reliance on imaging. At Clearcut Physiotherapy, your well-being remains our top priority. We provide the best Eltham Physiotherapy, book now.

By Hassan Mohamoud