A low back MRI can help out a great deal with understanding if there is anything wrong with the anatomical structures (like a fracture, spinal cord damage, or even cancer).
Once major diagnoses are cleared, scary words like "degeneration" and "disk bulge" may appear on the MRI report It is important to realize that these findings are very common in people without any pain.
A few smart researchers performed a study and looked at low back imaging of over 3,000 asymptomatic people of all ages and found some pretty amazing information. See a nice chart of their finding below:
The study's abstract says it best:
"The prevalence of disk degeneration in asymptomatic individuals increased from 37% of 20-year-old individuals to 96% of 80-year-old individuals. Disk bulge prevalence increased from 30% of those 20 years of age to 84% of those 80 years of age."
Imaging findings of spine degeneration are present in high proportions of asymptomatic individuals, increasing with age. Many imaging-based degenerative features are likely part of normal aging and unassociated with pain. These imaging findings must be interpreted in the context of the patient’s clinical condition."
Bottom line: Just because your MRI says there is spine degeneration, don't fret! It's part of the normal aging process. If you have back pain, skilled physical therapy can help get you moving pain-free!
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