Back pain will affect over 80% of the population at some point in their lives so there is a very high chance that you or someone in your family will have a bout of back pain at some point. This does not mean that you got your bad back from your mom though! (stop blaming your poor mama)

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Which brings me to my next point…

I reposted on our Facebook group about 1 week ago a repost from Active Life RX that said STOP SAYING YOU HAVE A BAD BACK! When we say things like this or we self identify that our family all has “bad backs” it limits our own ability to recover, manage, and prevent back pain.

Be careful everything you think turns into words which turns into actions which turns into your life! You are always manifesting your future!

Back pain is scary though. I get it! Several of my clients struggling with back pain will report it is so much more debilitating than injury they have ever had before (broken ribs are the subjectively the worst from what I have gathered over time). They struggle at work, at home, they are unable to work out. And they all say the same thing

“I do not care what it takes I never want to experience this again”

One major thing comes out of fear though… the NEED and yes NEED to know what is going on. With more accessibility to imaging, many clients request an MRI to “make sure there is nothing bad going on” and they are frustrated when insurance or their doctor denies an MRI and asks them to come to physical therapy first.


Here is what I tell everyone,


From what you ask? Below is are listed the statistics Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy 2011 by Timothy Flynn   about MRI and why appropriate use is so important!


Asymptomatic persons 60 years or older, 36% had a herniated disc, 21% had spinal stenosis, and over 90% had a degenerated or bulging disc.6 Carragee et al9 performed MRIs at baseline (no symptoms of LBP) and then a repeat MRI if a patient developed an episode of LBP. The sample included 200 patients followed for 5 years.9 In the patients that went on to develop clinically serious LBP during the subsequent 5 years, 84% had unchanged or improved lumbar imaging abnormalities findings after symptoms developed. Furthermore, at baseline (no LBP), there was a high incidence of what in most studies would appear to be potentially serious pathology: nearly 50% had either disc protrusion or extrusion, nearly 30% had annular fissures, and there was potential root irritation in 22%.9 Thus over 90% of individuals had imaging findings without any significant low back symptoms, indicating that the association between such findings and symptoms is tenuous.9

90% of individuals have disc herniations on their MRI! And these individuals DO NOT have back pain.


What do we do with this information now?

  • Early initiation of physical therapy and/or chiropractic care is so important.
  • Get screened for movement often (FMS)! Although on MRI 90% of individuals have a disc protrusion so it looks like everyones back pain might be the same cause… I find that rarely to be true. EACH PERSON DESERVES AN INDIVIDUAL ASSESSMENT AND PLAN!

  • Gather more information prior to getting an MRI get MD and physical therapy second opinions
  • Please be aware of the side effects
    • MRI, CT scans, and X rays all use radiation and radiation waves can cause cancer.
    • Seeing your MRI results increases the probability of surgery, increases days of disability and lost work time, and decreases the self reports of improvement in health at 1,3, and 5 years REGARDLESS of diagnosis. The groupings left blind to their MRI results did better long term
  • There are reasons for MRI results. As a physical therapists, we are required to be able to know and test RED FLAGS. This tells us that something more severe may be occurring and we need to send for imaging and possible surgery. This is serious and we are able to screen for that!

So, what did we learn today

  1. 80% of people have self reported low back pain so its not a family thing it is a human thing

  2. Most cases resolve with physical therapy and decreases your risk if you can avoid imaging prematurely

  3. It is important to continue to movement screens and fitness activities to prevent reoccurrence and to better manage symptoms!

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Check out Jason’s Story for more information on back pain, fitness, and recovery in our Mobility Athletes Page!