Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, it has been a fairly common practice for health care providers to blame radiographic findings (x-ray, MRI, CT scans) of multilevel degenerative changes in the spine (spinal joint arthritis) as the cause of low back pain.
In a 2008 study published in Spine Journal, no relationship between degenerative changes in the spinal joints and low back pain was found in 3529 participants. According to lead author, Leonard Kalichman, PhD
“In the present study, we failed to find an association between facet joint arthritis (osteoarthritis), identified by CT scan, at any spinal level and low back pain in a community based study population.”
Although the results demonstrated a high incidence of degenerative changes in the spine that increased steadily with age, the relationship to low back pain could not be established.
These findings were consistent with previous studies that failed to find a predictable relationship between low back pain and common degenerative changes in the spine.
Bottom Line: Be skeptical of health care providers that point to degenerative changes on an imaging scan of your spine and say, “Ah, there’s the cause of your low back pain.”
For additional low back pain information, please see:
Degenerative Disc Disease
Low Back Pain
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Dedicated to Erasing Your Back Pain
Malton A. Schexneider, PT, MMSc
The Back Pain Expert