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MYTH: I NEED AN MRI WHEN I HAVE PAIN

Are you thinking about getting an MRI in Greenville SC? This might sound surprising, but MRIs are often not needed to successfully treat your pain or problem. Knowing this can save you valuable time and money!

Why? Because there is a high percentage of “abnormal” findings (such as disc bulges/herniations, partial tears, arthritis, etc.) in people who aren’t experiencing any pain. Continue reading to see what on average every non-symptomatic individual has, and understand how MRI results can be misleading.

Here is what MRI research results reveal in individuals who are HEALTHY and PAIN-FREE:
33% of ALL people had a rotator cuff tear
60% of people had a disc abnormality in their low back
80% of people had a disc bulge in their neck
75% of baseball pitchers had rotator cuff damage
65% had cartilage damage in their knee
25% had a meniscal tear in their knee
 
Look at that list of pathologies that aren't causing ANY pain!

So how does this impact my treatment? From a physical therapist’s perspective, we don’t create a treatment plan based upon your MRI findings. If we did, we would just do the same thing for everybody who has a herniated disc, arthritis, etc. But we are not cookie-cutters, we evaluate each patient individually and address the impairments we find. 
 
MRIs don't cause any physical harm, but ironically, an MRI can actually make you feel worse.You’re probably wondering "what's the harm in getting an MRI?" Let me explain! Well we know that many individuals have pathology without pain or loss in function, and they will live their entire life without pain or loss of function. However, once a pathology is recognized, individuals instantly begin to have pain and functional loss due to the brain’s recognition of pathology. I think of it like a cut on the leg: you don’t realize it’s there, and it doesn’t hurt, until someone points it out to you and you look at it.
 
Getting an MRI can give patients a negative outlook on their prognosis, which can lead them down a more invasive treatment path (injections, surgery, etc.) because the doctors are just "treating" the MRI and not the patient. This is especially true if the patient received an MRI due to back or neck pain. Furthermore, many individuals feel labeled after getting an MRI, which can increase anxiety about pain and/or cause a heightened sense of concern. This can lead individuals to seek more medical care (testing, different doctors, etc).

Health insurance companies also understand that MRIs are overused and often unnecessary. Insurance companies commonly deny authorization for MRI requests because they are expensive (costing around $2000), tend to lead to more expensive tests, and don't necessarily lead to improved care or better outcomes. So why pay for something that may be unnecessary and potentially cause you to have less favorable results?

Next time you are sitting in the doctor's office discussing your problem (or at least trying to discuss your problem for longer than 30 seconds before you get cut off) and the doctor says he wants to get an MRI, how do you respond? We've put together a simple list of questions to help guide your conversation with your doctor. To download common MRI questions, click HERE and we'll send them to you right away. 

  

  

If you have questions about your pain/injury/limitation, or are interested in injury prevention, then please email us by clicking HERE, or call us at (864) 881-1712. We would love to take some time to help you.

If you need a physical therapist to evaluate, treat, or prevent your pain/injury/limitation, then click HERE to schedule an appointment today.