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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 little? False positive MRI results distress those who receive these results. They inspire fear or caution where it is not always needed. MRIs like this blur the proper treatment plan. They cost quite a bit. Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka carefully evaluates the necessity of MRI in the Sitka chiropractic treatment plan of Sitka back pain relief.


MRI interpretations by radiologists often differ.  The true-positive finding rate was 56.4%, and the miss-rate was 43.6%. (1) MRI imaging may produce misleading suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were proper. Of those, only 13% found anything suspicious. Of the 36 MRIs that provoked 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 – grows 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 Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka, to compare all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Sitka chiropractor does this!


Choosing Wisely guidelines for American chiropractors suggest30 not repeating spinal imaging and not obtaining spinal imaging for patients with acute low back pain in the first 6 weeks of back pain (except when “red flags” are present– issues that suggest something more worrisome). (4) A review of the efficacy of the Canadian Choosing Wisely recommendations for imaging nonspecific spinal pain and symptoms reported that there is very low risk of missing a serious cause of back pain. (5) The purpose of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka wants what’s best for our Sitka chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka study all the symptoms, tests and images our Sitka chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first Sitka chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients present to Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka with MRI images already done. Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka 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 more imaging or testing or arranging surgical consultation. (6)

CONTACT Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka

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 Sitka chiropractic appointment with Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka today. Let’s explore together the best path to Sitka back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Arctic Chiropractic, Sitka carefully chooses when and if MRI images are needed to guide the Sitka chiropractic treatment plan.  
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"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."