MRI answers

Back Pain: Do You Need an MRI?

  • February 21, 2017

When You Do and Do NOT Need an MRI For Your Back Pain  

This blog post is perfect for you if you are currently suffering from back pain or know someone who is, and are considering or have been told that you need an MRI.

Nobody wants to be pinned down dealing with back pain.

Being in this situation can cause a ton of worry and concern about when or if you’ll be able to continue on with your normal life again.

You may immediately consider getting an MRI. You might make the assumption that by getting an MRI you will somehow have a better understanding of what you are dealing with, what you can do about it, and how long it will take you to recover.

The problem with these assumptions is that in the far majority of cases an MRI will not give you this information.

While MRI imaging is an incredible advancement in medical technology, it is only a small part of the story when managing back pain.

In the overwhelming majority of cases of low back pain, it is at best a waste of your hard earned money. Or at worst, will make your situation even worse than it already is.

I’ll explain more in a sec. But first let's take a look at a list of things that indicate you are likely a candidate for an MRI.

When getting an MRI is probably a good idea

  • You cannot pass urine or stool
  • You have a history of cancer
  • You have numbness or tingling in your groin or anal area
  • You have a history of prolonged corticosteroid use
  • You cannot control your bladder or bowel movements
  • You have a history of osteoporosis
  • You have an unexplained fever that is associated with your back pain
  • You have a history of a weakened immune system
  • Your back pain is the result of severe trauma or an accident
  • You have muscle weakness or numbness related to your back pain that is continuing to get worse
  • You have tried conservative therapy for (i.e. chiropractic or physical therapy) and your symptoms have not improved

Did you match any of the criteria on this list?

  • IF YES, then make sure and let your healthcare provider know about it.
  • IF NO, then not only would an MRI be a waste of money, but it would be in your best interest to NOT get one.

Important info about early MRI’s for back pain

Not only will getting an early MRI in most cases be a huge waste of money, but doing so will not change the type of care you will receive in the first place.

It’ll only make your wallet a whole lot lighter.

Medical research has even shown that people who do get an MRI early have less desirable outcomes than those that do not. And they also have significantly increased chances of having a surgery in the future.

Part of the reason for these poor outcomes with an early MRI has to do with what is often found on these images. Many people, (even healthcare providers) falsely assume that what is found on an MRI is always an indicator of why they have pain.

The truth is that if you took 100 people who did NOT have back pain and gave them an MRI scan, the majority of them would find things out of the ordinary.

An MRI is Only a Single Piece of Information

Unless what is found on an MRI can be correlated with what your healthcare provider has found after taking you through a very thorough health history and physical exam, the findings on an MRI will probably not be very important to your recovery or treatment.


Back pain is no fun whatsoever to deal with. It can keep you from doing simple daily tasks like brushing your teeth, tying your shoes or even getting out of bed without suffering. Not to mention that it will very often keep you from living the fun and exciting life that you enjoy.

It’s important to know the right information of how to proceed when this situation comes about.

This blog was intended to arm you with peace of mind and also save you some dough in the process.

Remember, you DO NOT have to live with back pain forever!

There is almost always a simple and effective way to overcome your back pain and return to your normal life and the activities you love.

It just takes the right approach and a healthcare provider who truly cares about you and is willing to spend the quality time you deserve to address your specific situation.


  • Unless you matched something on the list above you probably DO NOT need an MRI
  • If you do not match one of the items on the list above, you have a very high likelihood of being able to overcome your pain and getting back to your normal life a lot sooner than you think!
  • Getting an MRI when it is unnecessary has the potential to not only waste your hard earned money, it has the potential to make things worse!

Are you looking to get out of pain even faster?

The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.