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Back X-ray

Do I need a scan for my back?

There are many factors which influence whether your physiotherapist will refer for further imaging.  For the majority of people that experience back pain, medical imaging will not assist with assessment or future treatment.  Imaging regularly shows changes that may of occurred over time and be irrelevant to current symptoms.

Studies have shown that people who may be pain free may have disc bulges and degeneration and yet be symptom free.  Conversely, there are cases of people experiencing extreme pain and symptoms yet no abnormality on medical imaging.  In fact, recent research has shown that early imaging may actually increase the severity and duration of symptoms associated with low back pain.

A physiotherapist clinical assessment takes into account the mechanism of injury, history of symptoms, previous history and a physical assessment assessment posture, mobility, strength and motor control.

What should I do?

As physiotherapists, we regularly see episodes of back pain which can be debilitating and cause anxiety and fear.  Despite this, severity of pain is not a reason to refer for imaging as it does not indicate more or less damage.  Importantly, back pain is common with statistics indicating that up to 80% of Australian’s experience at least one episode of back pain.

At Malvern East Physiotherapy, our team will refer for medical imaging if physiotherapy treatment is not progressing as expected or if we suspect that your back pain may be associated with medical issues such as cancer or infection.

Recently, the Australian Physiotherapy Association has taken a public stance by endorsing Choosing Wisely and discouraging unnecessary scans.

Remember, should you be experiencing low back pain, our physiotherapy team is well placed to thoroughly assess your symptoms and address long term strategies to help keep you active and injury free!