MRIs - The Positives and the False Positives

Tests – what are they good for?

In the realm of back pain tests, of MRIs that question must be examined. What are MRIs good for when the percentage of constructive, influential MRI studies is so little? False positive MRI results upset those who receive such results. They inspire fear or caution where it is not always warranted. MRIs like this confuse the proper treatment plan. They cost quite a bit. Cross Chiropractic Center carefully weighs the need for MRI in the Sandy Springs chiropractic treatment plan of Sandy Springs 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 cause false 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 provoked 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 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 Cross Chiropractic Center, to correlate all such findings with patient symptoms. (1,3) Your Sandy Springs chiropractor does this!


Choosing Wisely guidelines for American chiropractors recommend 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 indicate something more sinister). (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 objective of guidelines is less imaging, fewer false positives.  Cross Chiropractic Center wants what’s best for our Sandy Springs chiropractic care patients.


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

CONTACT Cross Chiropractic Center

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

Schedule your Sandy Springs chiropractic appointment with Cross Chiropractic Center today. Let’s explore together the best path to Sandy Springs back pain relief – with or without MRI imaging!

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