Practical & Emerging Information On Disc Degeneration and Spinal Arthritis
Do your x-ray and MRI findings matter as much as you were led to believe?
You had x-rays for one thing or another and the provider came back with the results. They sat you down and they were fairly serious and concerned. They said something similar to the following:
- It's bone on bone
- It's a degenerative disc disease
- It's a bulging disc
- It's a herniated disc
- It's arthritis in the spine
- It's stenosis
- It's a decrease in the curvature of your neck and I'm really concerned
- It's not a matter of if you'll have surgery, it's a matter of when you'll have surgery.
Ah, that last one; it's the worst and should NEVER be uttered. Yet, I hear this from patients in my clinic literally every single day.
All of those sound absolutely terrible. But, what if I told you that not only can you NOT make a diagnosis based solely on an x-ray or an MRI, but the majority of x-ray or MRI findings are absolutely normal and the majority of them cause NO PAIN OR LOSS OF FUNCTION at all? You probably wouldn't believe me because we've been taught the biomedical model our whole lives. Heck, a large number of providers globally as still unaware of this information. So, essentially, you could consider yourself at the forefront of the current understanding of pain! As the Australians would say, "Good on ya!"
But, we've learned more about pain in the last 10 years than we knew over the previous 1,000 years. The research coming out monthly on pain is staggering. And continues to be eye-opening and, I would say, very encouraging.
I could really get off into the weeds with pain and venture off into neurology and the biopsychosocial construct of pain but I've covered some of this in previous blogs and videos and, for many of you, your eyes will glaze and I'll lose you instantly.
Instead, I'm going to share a graphic with you that recently came out from Spine Care Partners that demonstrates quite clearly that findings on MRIs and x-rays don't typically mean issues in the patient that is sitting directly in front of the provider.
For example, the research is crystal clear;
Degenerative Disc Disease is NOT a disease. It's part of the natural aging process and typically causes no pain. 68% of 40-50-year-olds have degenerated discs with zero pain and full function. Almost 70%, folks. Zero pain. I would not even mention degenerative discs to a patient in my clinic unless it's somehow relevant to what's going on with the patient that brought them into my clinic. Most of the time, it is not relevant.
We providers have the literal ability to convince patients that they are broken and should be careful for the rest of their lives. We have the ability to communicate poorly with the patient and condemn them to chronic pain and a sedentary lifestyle because they're convinced they're going to further harm themselves if they're too active.
Or, we have the ability to pull them away from chronic pain. We can communicate optimistically and encourage the patient to be and to stay active and to understand that hurt does not equal harm. Work through the pain but do not become sedentary. Being sedentary leads to deeper chronic pain, increased depression and anxiety, and sleep disorders to name a few.
When providers better understand the findings in an x-ray or MRI report, they are better at communicating them in a way that is not catastrophizing and detrimental to the patient's physical and mental future.
If you've received discouraging news from a provider about your x-rays or MRIs and would like a second opinion, please call us at 806-355-3000 and come see us today. Let us take a look and help clarify or explain things if we find something different than your other provider. Experience matters and being an orthopedic specialist really can make a difference in what diagnosis and treatment you end up getting.
The right decision can change everything so make sure your healthcare decisions are made on solid knowledge and research.
William B. Weeks, Jason Pike, Christopher J. Schaeffer, Mathew J. Devine, John M. Ventura, Jeremy Donath, Brian D. Justice,
Integrating Epidemiological Information into MRI Reports Reduces Ensuing Radiologic Testing Costs Among Patients with Low Back Pain: A Controlled Study,
The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety,
Volume 46, Issue 6,
Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP is double Board Certified as a Fellow in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Orthopedics as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Professionals, and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast (https://www.chiropracticforward.com). Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at https://www.amarillochiropractor.com.
Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020 & 2021. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Medical at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.
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