How To Read an MRI or X-ray Report

By: Joe Hribick

If you’re dealing with Low Back Pain or Sciatica and recently had an MRI or X-ray and it’s been shown that you have you have spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease or arthritis. Just because you have those symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that those are the cause of your pain. for example there’s a lot of patients who bring their X-ray or MRI results into us and say, “Hey I know what the cause my pain is, it’s spinal stenosis or a herniated disc”. Maybe they truly do have a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, but,  that may not be the reason they’re in pain.


There was a study recently done that’s in the Journal of Spine and what they did is they took over 3000 healthy individuals, so these are people that don’t have any back pain or any symptoms; they’re doing great. They did an X-ray, or in this study, an MRI on those individuals and here are the results that they found:


So for individuals at the age of 20, 30% of them  show some signs of a disc herniation. By the time they were 80, 84% of them had disc herniation. So once again remember these are people that do not have any symptoms are doing great. Then they looked at spinal stenosis and looked at several patients who were  20 years-old, 37% were showing signs of spinal stenosis or narrowing of their spine. When they looked at the 80 year olds, 96% had signs of spinal stenosis But they didn’t have any pain, so how can that be?


Oftentimes the cause of low back pain is not necessarily coming from a disc bulge or stenosis, there could be another cause. The best way to determine that, X-rays and MRI’s are helpful because it gives a really detailed look, but movement testing is one of the BEST ways to determine the true cause.


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