How do you know what’s wrong without an Xray?

I’m no alarmist, but there isn’t a question that concerns me more than this question. I’m lucky to work with some amazing docs but occasionally we get a walk-in from a primary physician I am unfamiliar with and worse yet, the patient explains that they have been told their back pain is due to a radiographic finding of “arthritis” or “degenerated discs”.


Frankly, it’s maddening.


Evidence of disc space narrowing, arthritis, spinal stenosis and the like is often meaningless.  The science has been clear for some time. Diagnosing local back pain, no matter how severe, cannot be accurately done through ANY imaging.  Often times, this leads a patient down a very dangerous road of medication and even surgery, all the while the most benign yet painful cause of the problem is ignored.

Dont’ take my word for it, here is a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine.

(there are many, many studies confirming this)

Even worse, your recovery is slowed by the very process of going for an x-ray or MRI! The anxiety and concern of simply thinking there is a serious condition at play stalls the healing mechanism.

Take a deep breath, let’s dig a little deeper.

Radiographs and MRI’s, all advanced imaging, is amazing technology that allows us live longer, healthier lives.  We need this imaging.  We just don’t need it when your symptoms do not warrant it.  Fractures through specific mechanism of injury or specific conditions must be caught.  If a doctor wants to rule out a tumor, holy smokes, we need this imaging.  But when you have local pain, classic radiating pain patterns and exam findings consistent with biomechanical injury, X-rays are not your friend.

At our practice, we offer common sense direction, treatment, and advice when guiding you through your condition. We do not scare you into pills, supplements, contracts, fancy gizmos or gadgets and we are confident our hands-on approach will get you back to good in no time at all.

Imaging is there IF we need it, but I would state quite comfortably that over 90% of our patients require no imaging and / or are talked down from the panic they have been enduring since they got their MRI results and googled the term “osteophyte”.   🙂


Stay out of trouble out there! Dr. Tom special still going!