One tool that is often used are plain lumbar x-ray films in helping to diagnose lower back pain. These x-rays are often the first test ordered if you visit a chiropractor or medical doctor for lower back pain. The report will usually include findings of degenerative disc disease, or osteoarthrosis.
What you need to realize is that these are diagnostic x-ray findings based on what is observed on the lumbar x-ray films. This may or may not be the cause or reason for your low back pain.
Many times there are no observable abnormal findings on the x-rays; yet, the patient presents with varying degrees of low back pain.
Other times, there is significant disc degeneration and osteoarthrosis, as well as perhaps other abnormal findings; but, these patients have little or, even quite possibly, no pain.
So the presence of abnormal lumbar x-ray findings does not necessarily mean that these findings are what is causing your low back pain
All tests, including x-rays, are only part of the diagnostic workup. You must be able to tie it all together with the history, physical examination and other necessary test findings before arriving at any conclusions.
Sure there are times when the x-ray or MRI test will show immediate or conclusive evidence that the low back pain is the result of clearly observable findings. Such as when there is the presence of cancer or fractures. But even the presence of these may not necessarily, or automatically, correlate with the low back pain that the patient may be suffering with.
There are times these diseases are discovered on x-ray only when low back pain occurs following an injury. The cause of low back pain may not necessarily be related to the x-ray findings. Do not jump to conclusions, just because there are observable x-ray findings, that these x-ray findings are the cause of your pain.
An analogy would be, if you see a woman walking in the mall and she looks like your Aunt Minnie that does not necessarily mean it is in fact your Aunt Minnie. In other words, just because x-ray findings look like they could be the cause of pain doesn't necessarily mean they are.
You must consider the history, physical examination findings, symptoms and any test results before arriving at a diagnosis.
Research shows that lumbar x-rays are of little to no relevance with regard to low back pain. Research also shows that x-ray finding may not effectively make any difference in the treatment outcome.
Remember, it's always best to visit your chiropractor and have him or her make the determination for the need of x-rays based on your history and examination findings. Do not be your own doctor.
Another danger, from placing too much emphasis on x-ray findings, is that once there is a determination of an abnormal findings on x-ray, the doctor and patient assume that because these changes are permanent, whether they are the cause of the low back pain or not, that this is your problem. And then the treatment choice is medications for the rest of your life. In essence, you have become a low back pain cripple.
The reality is, despite the abnormal findings on x-ray, most low back pain is not coming from these findings. They are, in fact, more likely muscular in origin.
Sure these findings need to be effected in a positive manner. They may be contributing factors in your low back pain. But, if the pain is treated and managed properly you won't need the damaging drugs or unnecessary surgery.
Happily, your life will be returned to more normalcy.