Most doctors have a good idea of what might be causing your pain based upon information about your symptoms, where the pain is, and how the pain started. For more difficult cases, there is no better way to determine a diagnosis than by taking a picture to see whats going on internally. This is exactly what MRI and X-Rays do.
Not all conditions require images, however there are certain circumstances where images should be performed right away. A few examples include: unexplained weight loss with pain, back pain with fever, and a significant fall or injury that started the pain. These are what we call “red flags” that require immediate attention and can potentially be medical emergencies. For most general pain conditions that come into the office, x-ray’s and MRI’s are not needed right away, because they wouldn’t change the treatment for the condition. However, if a patient has been receiving treatment for 6 weeks at a chiropractor and there has been no improvement, or the pain has even become worse, an x-ray should be taken. Most insurance companies will require an x-ray to be completed before they will approve an MRI.
So what is the difference between an x-ray and an MRI? An x-ray is taken to look at the bones of the body, and that is about it. You can see areas where other tissues exist, but it typically just appears black and the bone appears white. X-rays are a beneficial tool in diagnosing arthritis, bone degeneration, stenosis, anatomical variations, fractures of the bones, and in rare cases, bone cancer. The process of getting MRI’s are much more involved and show more detail, including all the tissues of the body in varying shades of black, grey, and white. X-rays only show bone, where as MRI’s show muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal discs, spinal cord, brain matter, etc. Because MRI’s are so much more involved, they take longer to perform and can diagnosis many more conditions. Some conditions a chiropractor may use an MRI to help identify include: disc bulges, spinal cord compression, and muscle tears. These conditions are not seen with a typical x-ray. Again, MRI’s are usually performed because a patient has not responded to conservative treatment such as chiropractic or physical therapy for up to 6 weeks. If the patient has not responded to care, the MRI may show underlying damage that may need more invasive procedures from other specialist.
If you have had an MRI or X-Ray and want to go over the results, or feel like you may benefit from chiropractic care, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment for more information. If it appears that an x-ray or MRI is needed, Rochester ChiroTherapy has the ability to order these images in appropriate situations.