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Originally published September 22 2010

Using Medical Imaging to Diagnose Back Pain is Most Often Worthless

by Kerri Knox, RN

(NaturalNews) The most common diagnostic tests that doctors order on those who suffer from back pain are medical imaging tests. Doctors are quick to order X-rays, CAT scans and expensive MRI's for both acute and chronic back pain, but new evidence points to the fact that slipped disks, degenerative changes and even herniated disks and compression fractures are simply normal variations that occur in the aging process that are no more dangerous or painful than gray hair and wrinkles. While most doctors requesting these tests are doing so in order to find the cause of people's pain, several studies are beginning to show that just as many people WITHOUT back pain have the exact same structural back problems as people WITH back pain.

Interestingly, studies are showing that SO many 'healthy' and pain-free people have these same changes that the differences between the two are 'statistically insignificant'. This means that these problems are simply normal changes due to aging that nearly everyone has and, in most cases, are just simply not the cause of people's pain. This seems extremely counterintuitive and even paradigm-shifting for most who have back pain. Because they can see right there on their test that they have this terrible structural problem, they absolutely believe that their pain is due to this obvious problem. There is one doctor, however, who didn't believe this and was a lone voice who encouraged the studies to be done. After years of treating back pain unsuccessfully, he realized that the area where pain was being experienced often did not 'match up' with the expected areas of pain that the imaging tests would have suggested.

The conclusion that Dr. Sarno came to was shocking; the 'horrible' findings on medical imaging actually meant nothing at all in most cases, and almost none of his patients were experiencing pain BECAUSE of these abnormal findings. He developed a theory called Tension Myositis Syndrome and has successfully treated tens of thousands of back pain patients, including celebrities such as John Stossell and Howard Stern, by educating them. Back pain, according to the TMS theory, doesn't stem from the structural problems found on imaging, but from tension leading to such severe muscle tightness that it creates a lack of oxygen to muscles and nerves. This lack of oxygen causes pain that leads to anxiety which leads to more tension, pain and anxiety. Once educated that unconscious stress is causing their pain, and not these structural abnormalities, often the pain simply disappears.

While many doctors and researchers believe that Dr. Sarno's success is caused by the placebo effect, he argues that since there IS no treatment, only education about the true cause of the back pain, there simply cannot BE a placebo effect! He also argues that if there was something so terribly wrong with the structure of the back that it was causing pain, then nothing short of remedying the structural problem would relieve the pain. In any case, peer reviewed studies have shown that Dr. Sarno's work has led to lasting pain relief in 58 - 88% of back pain sufferers that he sees- and that is pretty good for having no treatment at all.


About the author

Kerri Knox, RN is a Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner.
With over 14 years of experience in health care, she has the unique perspective of being solidly grounded in Conventional Medicine and being well versed in Alternative Medicine.
She can help you to to find and repair the UNDERLYING CAUSES of illness using cutting edge in home lab testing that finds nutritional deficiencies, hidden infections and chemical and metal toxicities that contribute to ill health.
She can be reached through her websites at:
Easy Immune System
Side Effects Site

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