MRIs - The Positives and the False Positives

Tests – what are they good for?

When it comes to back pain tests, of MRIs that question must be asked. What are MRIs good for when the percentage of constructive, influential MRI studies is so small? False positive MRI results upset those who get these results. They inspire fear or caution where it is not always needed. MRIs like this confuse the proper treatment plan. They spend a lot of money. Back And Neck Care Center carefully evaluates the need for MRI in the Severna Park chiropractic treatment plan of Severna Park back pain relief.


Interpretations of MRI images by radiologists often differ.  The true-positive finding rate was 56.4%, and the miss-rate was 43.6%. (1) MRI imaging may produce false suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were proper. Of those, only 13% found anything that needed to be addressed. Of the 36 MRIs that caused suspicion of cancer or infection, 81% were false-positive. 59% of the follow-up MRIs on those suspicious findings were false positives. (2) MRI imaging may mislead. For example, MRI shows that the presence of disc degeneration in asymptomatic persons – persons with no back pain – rises with age:  37% in 20 year olds and 96% in 80 year olds; disc bulges: 30% to 84%; disc protrusion: 29% to 43%; annular fissures 19% to 29%. These imaging findings suggest that these are signs of normal aging. They remind all doctors, remind chiropractors like yours at Back And Neck Care Center, to correlate all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Severna Park chiropractor does this!


Choosing Wisely guidelines for American chiropractors suggest30 not repeating spinal imaging and not getting spinal imaging for patients with acute low back pain in the first 6 weeks of back pain (unless there are “red flags” – issues that indicate something more disturbing). (4) A review of the effectiveness of the Canadian Choosing Wisely recommendations for imaging nonspecific spinal pain and symptoms stated that there is very low risk of missing a serious cause of back pain. (5) The goal of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Back And Neck Care Center wants what is best for our Severna Park chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Back And Neck Care Center study all the symptoms, tests and images our Severna Park chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first Severna Park chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients present to Back And Neck Care Center with MRI images already with them. Back And Neck Care Center will study them but will rely more on clinical exam findings and correlate them to what the MRI reveals. A rule of thumb with the Cox Technic System of Back Pain Relief is to seek 50% decrease of back pain in the first month of care before ordering additional imaging or testing or arranging surgical consultation. (6)

CONTACT Back And Neck Care Center

Listen to this PODCAST with Dr. Dan Clark on the Back Doctor’s Podcast with Dr. Michael Johnson as he describes imaging for back pain in the program of treatment for pain relief.

Schedule your Severna Park chiropractic appointment with Back And Neck Care Center today. Let us discover together the best path to Severna Park back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Back And Neck Care Center carefully chooses when and if MRI images are needed to guide the Severna Park chiropractic treatment plan.  
« View All Spine Articles
"This information and website content is not intended to diagnose, guarantee results, or recommend specific treatment or activity. It is designed to educate and inform only. Please consult your physician for a thorough examination leading to a diagnosis and well-planned treatment strategy. See more details on the DISCLAIMER page. Content is reviewed by Dr. James M. Cox I."