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Low back pain is one of the most common ailments for people visiting a doctor or an urgent care clinic. When the back pain becomes intense it can get you thinking something is seriously wrong with your back. The doctor might offer an x-ray or MRI scan to put your concerns at ease.
Fortunately, most cases for low back pain even acute pain improve within days or a few weeks. Most cases are remedied with chiropractic, physical therapy, heat/ice therapy and rest. And a lot of these cases do not require any form of spinal imaging. However, there are those reasons when X-ray, MRI, CT scans are necessary to figure out what’s going on.
These are typical causes of low back pain that can be painful and limit activities.
Subacute pain lasts between 4 and 12 weeks while chronic back pain lasts 3 months or longer. These are not indications of a serious low spinal condition.
Less than 1% of people with low back pain are diagnosed with a condition that may require spine surgery like:
Doctors may recommend an x-ray or MRI if the low back pain was from a traumatic injury, like a:
Other potential causes of low back pain may warrant medical imaging immediately or later on.
The diagnostic process starts with the evaluation of the low back symptoms and how they relate to what was found during the:
A doctor utilizes these results to figure out whether the need for spinal imaging is necessary, along with the type of imaging test,� x-ray or MRI and the timing to confirm a diagnosis.
X-ray spinal imaging is best at detecting bony structural problems but not so great with soft tissue injuries. There are X-ray series that may be performed to diagnose vertebral compression fractures like.
MRI is a radiation-free test. MRI’s create 3-D anatomical views of the spinal bones and soft tissues. A contrast dye like gadolinium is used to enhance and improve the quality of the images. The contrast is injected through an intravenous line in your hand or arm before or during the test. An MRI can evaluate neurological symptoms, like radiating pain or pain that develops after being diagnosed with cancer.
When undergoing an x-ray, the radiation not absorbed by the body creates the image. The radiation dose is the same amount every time you undergo an x-ray. Radiation to your entire body is measured through the millisievert (mSv) also known as the effective dose.
The effective dose helps a doctor measure the risk for possible side effects of radiographic imaging:
MRI’s cannot be used on all patients because of its powerful magnet technology. Pregnant women or individuals that have metal inside their body like a spinal cord stimulator, heart pacemaker, etc cannot be scanned with an MRI.
MRI testing is also expensive, doctors do not want to prescribe unnecessary tests that increase costs. Or because of the fine detail that MRI’s provide, sometimes a spinal issue can look serious but is not.
Example: An MRI of the lower back reveals a herniated disc in a patient that has no back/leg pain or other symptoms.
This is why doctors bring all of their findings like the symptoms, physical exam, and medical history to confirm a diagnosis and then create the custom treatment plan.
If low back pain begins to take its toll, listen to what the doctor recommends. They might not order a lumbar x-ray or MRI immediately but remember the aforementioned issues like neurological symptoms and co-existing medical conditions. But these tests do help in discovering the cause or causes of the pain. Remember this is to help get patients to their optimal health and pain-free.
Imaging diagnostics is an essential element in the evaluation of spine trauma. The rapid evolution of imaging technology has tremendously changed the assessment and treatment of spine injuries. Imaging diagnostics utilizing CT and MRI, among others, are helpful in acute and chronic settings. Spinal cord and soft-tissue injuries are best evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, whereas computed tomography scanning or CT scans, best evaluate spinal trauma or spine fracture.
The information herein on "Why Do I Need an X-ray or MRI for Lower Back Pain El Paso, TX?" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.
Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
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We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
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