MRIs - The Positives and the False Positives

Tests – what are they good for?

When it comes to back pain tests, of MRIs that question must be asked. What are MRIs good for when the proportion of helpful, influential MRI studies is so little? False positive MRI results trouble those who receive such results. They arouse fear or caution where it is not always warranted. MRIs like this blur the proper treatment plan. They cost quite a bit. Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center carefully weighs the necessity of MRI in the Pensacola chiropractic treatment plan of Pensacola back pain relief.


MRI interpretations by radiologists often vary.  The true-positive finding rate was 56.4%, and the miss-rate was 43.6%. (1) MRI imaging may produce false suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were appropriate. Of those, only 13% revealed anything suspicious. Of the 36 MRIs that provoked suspicion of cancer or infection, 81% were false-positive. 59% of the follow-up MRIs on those suspicious findings were false positives. (2) MRI imaging may mislead. For example, MRI demonstrates that the presence of disc degeneration in asymptomatic persons – persons with no back pain – rises with age:  37% in 20 year olds and 96% in 80 year olds; disc bulges: 30% to 84%; disc protrusion: 29% to 43%; annular fissures 19% to 29%. These imaging findings imply that these are signs of normal aging. They remind all doctors, remind chiropractors like yours at Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center, to compare all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Pensacola chiropractor does this!


Choosing Wisely guidelines for American chiropractors suggest30 not repeating spinal imaging and not obtaining spinal imaging for patients with acute low back pain in the first 6 weeks of back pain (unless there are “red flags” – issues that indicate something more worrisome). (4) A review of the success of the Canadian Choosing Wisely recommendations for imaging nonspecific spinal pain and symptoms reported that there is very low risk of missing a serious cause of back pain. (5) The objective of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center wants what’s best for our Pensacola chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center review all the symptoms, tests and images our Pensacola chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first Pensacola chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients present to Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center with MRI images already in-hand. Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center will study them but will rely more on clinical exam findings and correlate them to what the MRI reveals. A rule of thumb with the Cox Technic System of Back Pain Relief is to seek 50% decrease of back pain in the first month of care before arranging more imaging or testing or arranging surgical consultation. (6)

CONTACT Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center

Listen to this PODCAST with Dr. Dan Clark on the Back Doctor’s Podcast with Dr. Michael Johnson as he describes imaging for back pain in the scheme of treatment for pain relief.

Schedule your Pensacola chiropractic appointment with Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center today. Let’s discover together the best path to Pensacola back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Pensacola Spinal Rehab Center carefully chooses when and if MRI images are needed to guide the Pensacola chiropractic treatment plan.  
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"This information and website content is not intended to diagnose, guarantee results, or recommend specific treatment or activity. It is designed to educate and inform only. Please consult your physician for a thorough examination leading to a diagnosis and well-planned treatment strategy. See more details on the DISCLAIMER page. Content is reviewed by Dr. James M. Cox I."