If your car shows a little wear and tear after you’ve driven it for a few years, do you panic and stop driving it? Of course not- it’s only normal.
Medical imaging procedures such as x-rays, CT scans and MRIs can be valuable for identifying serious medical conditions such as fracture, dislocations, spinal cord injuries,etc. However, once serious problems have been ruled out by your medical doctor, minor findings are of NO value in helping to explain the vast majority of aches and pains. In fact, not only are the majority of imaging results not helpful,studies support that they are even harmful from a psychological perspective. This is especially true when reports tell patients that they have arthritis, degenerative discs, disc bulges, tendon tears, etc. Everyday thousands of patients across Canada become a VOMIT (Victim of Medical Imaging Technology). Research shows that these patients have been shown to have MORE doctor visits, LONGER lasting pain, MORE disability and a LOWER sense of well being.
Studies have shown that lumbar disc degeneration is present in 40% of individuals under the age of 30! and present in 90% of individuals between the ages of 50-55. Another study showed that amongst healthy young adults aged 20-22 with no back pain, 48% had at least one degenerated disc and 25% had a bulging disc.
Similarly for neck pain a MRI study of healthy adults found that 98% of all adult men and women, with NO neck pain, had evidence of degenerative changes in their cervical vertebrae.
Leading Neurosurgeons at the University of California strongly recommend against the routine use of MRI for low back pain since they have found NO LINK between degenerative changes seen on MRI and low back pain!
So to make sense of this the research strongly suggests that many degenerative changes are completely normal from the age of 20 onwards. It is important not to panic if x-rays, CT scans or MRIs show anatomical degeneration in your back. The vast majority of our population has some level of degeneration but feel NO pain!The flip side of this is that if you do feel pain, we should focus on functional mobility to get you back doing the things you enjoy rather than being fixated on anatomical pathology because it is likely that all of us have some degeneration anyway.
So going back to the car analogy…sometimes all we need is a little tune up and research based education on how to keep things moving well on our own. One can only expect a car to have normal wear and tear the longer it is on the road and with proper treatment even vintage cars can run better than ever.