Back Pain and Imaging

Oftentimes clients wonder if they should get imaging (eg. MRI or X-ray) for their recurring low back pain. The answer is that for the majority of clients who suffer from lower back pain, imaging is not needed to effectively treat their lower back pain!

Previous studies have shown that over 50% of patients (aged 30-39) without any type of low back pain, have shown some type of disc degeneration when imaged with MRI. This percentage only increases as we look at older groups of patients! These studies show us that imaging is not a very good test for the cause of people’s lower back pain. The most effective and accurate way to get to the root cause of lower back pain is through a physical assessment from a regulated health professional. Mobility and strength testing, neurological assessment, and functional testing allow us to begin to hone in on the root causes of a patient’s recurring lower back pain, and allows us to begin to address the issues. 

The vast majority of people that suffer from lower back pain should respond well to conservative treatment only (physiotherapy, chiropractic, and massage). Our low back program uses a collaborative approach between physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists to help treat your low back pain in a manner that is effective and does not require further tests or imaging. Some of the treatments we utilize include mechanical diagnosis and therapy (MDT), modalities to reduce immediate pain (acupuncture, spinal decompression), soft tissue work, joint manipulations, and progressive strengthening to further prevent recurrences of lower back pain.

In the few instances where imaging may be required, a thorough subjective and objective health assessment from our regulated health professionals will identify these patients, and a timely update will be sent to your family physician/specialist. 

If you are suffering from low back pain there is no need to endure long wait times for imaging that in most cases is not required. Our therapists can immediately start treating your back pain and help get you back to the activities you need to. Email or call us at (519) 265-7343 to speak with our team to learn more.


Written by: Chris Sarro, Registered Physiotherapist, Physiotherapy Director, M.Sc. (PT), Hons. B.Sc.

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