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 asked. What are MRIs good for when the percentage of useful, influential MRI studies is so little? False positive MRI results distress those who receive these results. They arouse fear or caution where it’s not always needed. MRIs like this blur the proper treatment plan. They spend a lot of money. Minster Chiropractic Center carefully evaluates the need for MRI in the Minster chiropractic treatment plan of Minster back pain relief.


MRI interpretations by radiologists often differ.  The true-positive finding rate was 56.4%, and the miss-rate was 43.6%. (1) MRI imaging may trigger false suspicion. When following the guidelines of the American College of Radiology, 93% of lumbar spine MRIs were proper. Of those, only 13% uncovered anything that needed to be addressed. Of the 36 MRIs that raised 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 misinform. For example, MRI shows that the appearance of disc degeneration in asymptomatic persons – persons with no back pain – increases 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 imply that these are signs of normal aging. They remind all doctors, remind chiropractors like yours at Minster Chiropractic Center, to link all such findings to patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Minster chiropractor does this!


Choosing Wisely guidelines for American chiropractors suggest30 not repeating spinal imaging and not obtaining 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 indicate something more disturbing). (4) A review of the success of the Canadian Choosing Wisely recommendations for imaging nonspecific spinal pain and symptoms stated that there is very low risk of missing a worrying cause of back pain. (5) The goal of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Minster Chiropractic Center wants what is best for our Minster chiropractic care patients.


Chiropractors like yours at Minster Chiropractic Center review all the symptoms, tests and images our Minster chiropractic back pain patients [[present on|bring with them39] their first Minster chiropractic visit. So many back pain patients present to Minster Chiropractic Center with MRI images already in-hand. Minster Chiropractic Center will study them but will rely more on clinical exam findings and correlate them to what the MRI reveals. A rule of thumb with the Cox Technic System of Back Pain Relief is to work toward 50% decrease of back pain in the first 30 days of care before ordering more imaging or testing or referring for surgical consultation. (6)

CONTACT Minster Chiropractic Center

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 program of treatment for pain relief.

Schedule your Minster chiropractic appointment with Minster Chiropractic Center today. Let us discover together the best path to Minster back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

Minster Chiropractic Center carefully chooses when and if MRI images are needed to guide the Minster 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."