Spinal degeneration not linked to pain on big imaging review


Great new study showing that most people have disc bulges and degeneration as a normal part of ageing. Degenerative changes on imaging (MRI’s and CT Scans) are really common. The are not sufficient to cause pain.

An example from Brinjikiji et al 2014: They reviewed all available imaging studies and found that in pain free 50 year olds, 60% had lumbar disc bulges. That’s nearly 2/3 of healthy 50 year olds that have ropey discs. I was taught that was terrible news as a chiropractor. Its not.

Brinjikji W, et al (2014)  Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2014 Nov 27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25430861 (you can access the full pdf via the link)

From the Conclusion

Imaging evidence of degenerative spine disease is common in asymptomatic individuals and increases with age. These findings suggest that many imaging-based degenerative features may be part of normal aging and unassociated with low back pain, especially when incidentally seen. These imaging findings must be interpreted in the context of the patient’s clinical condition.

With Thanks to Adam Meakins https://www.facebook.com/adam.meakins.5

Another study highlighted by Meakins, see graph below, says over 80% of pain free 50 years olds have neck disc bulges.


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