That’s a quote from one of our patients who is also a physician. Sometimes we get too hung up on the results of an MRI or an X-ray and think that surgery is the only alternative. More often than not, we get patients that come in with the results of their MRI/X-ray in hand stating, “I don’t know why I’m here. My MRI says I have (disc bulge/herniation, bone spur, arthritis, etc.) and you can’t change that.” It is true that only surgery can change bone spurs, arthritis, etc., however, the symptoms MUST match the test (MRI/X-ray) findings. Again, more often than not, someone’s test results will show pathology that does not exactly match clinical presentation. For example: an MRI shows a right L-3 disc bulge; however, the patient may be having symptoms that match an L-5 pattern; or their symptoms may not even be on the right side at all.

X-rays and MRIs are intended to be used as a tool, something to give us more information to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together to paint a better picture of what really is causing the patient’s symptoms. These tests are dramatically overused and are increasing health care costs everyday. Physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts and a quality manual PT can often get a good idea what patient’s pathology might be just by observing them walk in from the waiting room. After a thorough initial evaluation, a sound diagnosis is made,  and 9 times out of 10, that diagnosis will be consistent with the patient’s true underlying pathology, all without spending excessive money on redundant special tests that would show “normal” degenerative changes. Please click on the links below to see what is meant by the term “normal”.

Take home message: Save time and money the next time you have any type of musculoskeletal pain and see one of the quality manual physical therapists at JGPT!!!