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 examined. What are MRIs good for when the proportion of helpful, influential MRI studies is so minor? False positive MRI results distress those who receive these results. They inspire fear or caution where it’s not always warranted. MRIs like this confuse the proper treatment plan. They cost quite a bit. Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries carefully weighs the necessity of MRI in the Manchester chiropractic treatment plan of Manchester 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 trigger false suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were appropriate. Of those, only 13% revealed anything suspicious. Of the 36 MRIs that raised 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 misinform. For example, MRI demonstrates that the appearance of disc degeneration in asymptomatic persons – persons with no back pain – increases 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 indicate that these are signs of normal aging. They remind all doctors, remind chiropractors like yours at Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries, to link all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Manchester 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 sinister). (4) A review of the success 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 goal of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries wants what’s best for our Manchester chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries review all the symptoms, tests and images our Manchester chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first Manchester chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients come to Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries with MRI images already done. Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries will study them but will depend 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% reduction of back pain in the first month of care before ordering additional imaging or testing or arranging surgical consultation. (6)

CONTACT Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries

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 Manchester chiropractic appointment with Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries today. Let’s explore together the best path to Manchester back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Manchester Chiropractic & Sports Injuries carefully chooses when and if MRI images are needed to guide the Manchester 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."