Many wonder whether they need a scan for their pain. The most common reason cited for wanting a scan is to “see what is going on.” The good news is that the vast majority of people do not need a scan. In fact, it should be considered a good thing if a practitioner does not think you need a scan – it shows there is nothing of concern. However, there are some instances where a scan is useful:

  • In some cases of trauma
  • In some cases where a scan may change management – e.g. lead to an opinion from a surgeon
  • In some cases where more serious pathology needs to be ruled out

The reason why we do not scan to see what is going on is because we know some changes are normal as we age

Things to remember 

  • The vast majority of those without pain have age related changes on MRI scans – this is normal!
  • Therefore, to correlate any such changes with a person’s pain is impossible in most cases as these changes (e.g. disc bulges) are absolutely normal
  • So, when you are told you do not need an MRI scan – this is a good thing! Because it means the practitioner is not worried about you
  • Fundamentally, scans are only used for specific reasons – not just to see what is going on!