Imaging Tests for Low Back Pain – Is It necessary?

Imaging Tests for Low Back Pain - Is It necessary?

Back pain can be unbearable. So it seems to get an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to find the cause might be a good idea. However, this is not usually the case. Here’s why:

They don’t help you get better faster

Most people with lower back pain feel better in about a month whether they get an imaging test or not. In fact, those tests can lead to additional procedures that complicate recovery.

They may have risks

X-rays and CT scans expose you to radiation, which can increase cancer risk. While back x-rays deliver less radiation, they still can give 75 times more radiation than a chest x-ray.

When do imaging tests make sense?

In some cases, you may need imaging tests right away. Talk to your doctor if you have back pain with any of the following symptoms:

  • A history of cancer
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of sense/strength in your legs
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Abnormal reflexes

How should you treat lower back pain?

Most people get over the back pain in a few weeks, and these simple steps might help:

  • Stay active
  • Apply heat
  • Consider over-the-counter medicines
  • Sleep comfortably
  • Talk with your doctor or physiotherapist

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