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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 questioned. What are MRIs good for when the percentage of useful, influential MRI studies is so little? False positive MRI results distress those who get such results. They arouse fear or caution where it is not always needed. MRIs like this confuse the proper treatment plan. They cost quite a bit. Chiropractic Care carefully evaluates the necessity of MRI in the West Palm Beach chiropractic treatment plan of West Palm Beach 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 produce misleading suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were proper. Of those, only 13% revealed anything that needed to be addressed. Of the 36 MRIs that caused 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 mislead. For example, MRI demonstrates that the presence of disc degeneration in asymptomatic persons – persons with no back pain – grows 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 Chiropractic Care, to link all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your West Palm Beach 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 (except when “red flags” are present– issues that suggest something more worrisome). (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 purpose of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Chiropractic Care wants what’s best for our West Palm Beach chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Chiropractic Care study all the symptoms, tests and images our West Palm Beach chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first West Palm Beach chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients present to Chiropractic Care with MRI images already done. Chiropractic Care will study them but will depend more on clinical exam findings and correlate them to what the MRI shows. A rule of thumb with the Cox Technic System of Back Pain Relief is to seek 50% decrease of back pain in the first 30 days of care before ordering additional imaging or testing or arranging surgical consultation. (6)

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Listen to this PODCAST with Dr. Dan Clark on the Back Doctor’s Podcast with Dr. Michael Johnson as he explains the role of imaging for back pain in the scheme of treatment for pain relief.

Schedule your West Palm Beach chiropractic appointment with Chiropractic Care today. Let’s discover together the best path to West Palm Beach back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Chiropractic Care carefully decides when and if MRI images are needed to guide the West Palm Beach 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."