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Should I get imaging?

Only part of the picture?

Imaging can be a very useful tool to help guide diagnosis and to 'rule out' any nasty pathologies.

However, imaging should be interpreted with caution.

Imaging can reveal lots of ‘structural changes’ that may be present in individuals with or without pain. Pain is complex and should not be directly associated with the amount of structural damage.

Many studies have examined the imaging findings of asymptomatic (pain free) and symptomatic individuals (pain) to compare and contrast. Here are some examples:

Low back imaging (Brinjikji et al. 2015)

In pain free individuals:

Knee imaging (Horga et al. 2020)

In pain free individuals:

Shoulder imaging (Girish et al. 2011)

In pain free individuals:

Hip imaging (Register et al. 2012)

In pain free individuals:

Scans... only part of the picture:

This post highlights that even people without pain will likely present with 'abnormalities' or pathologies.

Pain is more complex than a picture.

Ensure you speak to your health professional about your scans as well as other contributing factors so that you can better understand your pain.


Brinjikji, W., Luetmer, P. H., Comstock, B., Bresnahan, B. W., Chen, L. E., Deyo, R. A., ... & Jarvik, J. G. (2015). Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. American journal of neuroradiology, 36(4), 811-816.

Horga, L. M., Hirschmann, A. C., Henckel, J., Fotiadou, A., Di Laura, A., Torlasco, C., ... & Hart, A. J. (2020). Prevalence of abnormal findings in 230 knees of asymptomatic adults using 3.0 T MRI. Skeletal radiology, 49(7), 1099-1107.

Girish, G., Lobo, L. G., Jacobson, J. A., Morag, Y., Miller, B., & Jamadar, D. A. (2011). Ultrasound of the shoulder: asymptomatic findings in men. AJR-American Journal of Roentgenology, 197(4), W713.

Register, B., Pennock, A. T., Ho, C. P., Strickland, C. D., Lawand, A., & Philippon, M. J. (2012). Prevalence of abnormal hip findings in asymptomatic participants: a prospective, blinded study. The American journal of sports medicine, 40(12), 2720-2724.


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