Have you had imaging of your spine? Remember a lot of findings, although sounding scary are actually normal! The natural ageing process causes changes of EVERY structure of the human body. Just like wrinkles are normal of ageing skin, changes to the intervertebral discs, facet joints and vertebral bodies are normal of an ageing spine. The important thing to remember is, do the MRI findings specifically relate to your pain.
The vast majority of people, even if they do not have back pain will still have evidence of changes on MRI. In fact, a recent study on the prevalence of age related changes on spinal imaging showed a staggering 80% of 50 year olds with NO back pain had findings of disc degeneration and 60% had disc bulges. This number jumps to 93% disc degeneration and 77% disc bulges for those in their 70s.
So what does this tell us? That MRI imaging does not always correlate to your symptoms. You can have pain in the absence of any scan findings, and you can have no pain even with findings of disc degeneration / disc bulges / facet degeneration / spondylolisthesis.
The critical task when it comes to interpreting an MRI scan is correlating the findings on the MRI scan with your complaints and a physical examination. It has become common practice for a patient to walk out of a scan with a copy of the radiologists report, and curiosity generally sends most people to Google and after searching things like ‘disc protrusion’ and ‘spinal canal stenosis’ it is normal for patients to become anxious about the state of their spine.
It is very important to have your scan findings explained to you by an experienced health professional who is able to assess you, and correlate your symptoms to your findings.
Don’t let your scan results influence your beliefs and how you behave. Come in and chat to one of our experienced physiotherapists at Wellness Embodied Cairns and let us reassure you, and assess you and NOT your image findings.