The ability to see inside bodies without having surgery is an amazing tool that we’ve been able to use.
Could you imagine having a surgical procedure every time the doctor needed to find out what was happening?
I did treat someone where it was cheaper to have knee surgery than to have an MRI. I can’t remember how many surgeries this person. Not all surgeries were to fix an issue for this person, most of them were to see inside. Then another surgery was scheduled when they needed to “fix” something in the knee.
I’m guessing we would miss a lot of issues since we don’t have the ability to operate on everyone that shows symptoms. This is where imaging saves time, money, and is low risk compared to surgery.
But, there are times where imaging might be less ideal. I’ve mostly noticed this in this in the spine.
This was not to say that in these cases imaging should not have been done. It’s needed to make sure nothing more serious is missed, or as a guide during surgery. After that, it should be used as a piece of the puzzle.
Why wouldn’t you use it as something more?
In some cases, what the person was experiencing and what the images are showing can be very different. In a study where back images were taken, there were surprising results. When researchers were looking at the scans they tried predicting who had pain. They assumed that a back where you could see many issues, this person would be in a lot of pain. Or that a person with a perfect back would have no pain. It turns out that they weren’t always right.
Another reason for being cautious around imaging is people’s reaction to the results. Finding out results to an image can sometimes be shocking to a person. Being diagnosed with a herniated disk, even when they are feeling great can make them worry about their backs.
Having imaging done needs to be used as one part of the puzzle. Explaining what’s shown in the image is important but also explaining what it actually means for you in your daily life is also important. Sometimes a scan shows nothing even though you have pain. That could be frustrating for you but for me, it’s great information.
Imagine having the constant knowledge that you have a herniated disk because it was shown in a scan? You wouldn’t have known since you felt nothing? It could change how you went about your day. A scan can’t tell when it happened either. The herniation could have happened 20 years ago without you knowing.
What you should take away from your scan?
It’s a small piece of information. The best thing you can do is to get as much information as you can from the doctor or therapist. It’s information that we will use to see if we need to change how the rehab sessions are going because it’s confirming if what we thought was there or not.