Topics in Medical Imaging

Medical Doctors, Osteopathic physicians, and chiropractors may be able to learn a lot about the health and functioning of the back through strength testing, testing of reflexes, physical examination, and the evaluation of medical test data. Both now matter how good our doctors are at diagnostic medicine, they can't see deep into the body without medical imaging. Medical imaging includes a class of tests in which various types of technology allow us to views the internal structures of the body. Some medical imaging tests provide us with live imaging, and some allow for live viewing and still imaging and videography. In back pain medicine, medical imaging allows the diagnosticians to be able to see the vertebral bones of the back, as well as all of its central and supportive structures, including the spinal nerves, spinal ligaments, and associated joints of the spine. These medical tests tell the diagnosticians a lot about the health of the spine's individual structures, but the pictures and video recordings will also help to show when certain segments of the spine are out of alignment with one another.

For example, the result of medical images may show abnormal curvatures of the spine, such as scoliosis. These tests may also show then one or more vertebrae is misplaced, relative to the vertebra above or below it, as would be the case in a condition such as spondylolisthesis. Most commonly, though, medical images are used to test for the presence of degenerative diseases, and the effects of these degenerative conditions on the spinal nerve roots that exit the spine. Some of the most common medical imaging tests to diagnose the cause of back pain include the X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, Ultrasound, Myelogram, Discogram, Thermography, and MR Neurograqphy - MRN.

Medical Imaging Myths Exposed!?!?: One of the most interesting new developments in back pain medicine is the belief that medical imaging has almost no diagnostic value. Here's what many doctors think they know, and here's what other doctor's think the first set of doctors doesn't appreciate:
  • The purpose of medical imaging tests is to confirm or deny the existence of a degenerative disease in the part of the spine where the patient is experiencing pain.
  • When the medical imaging tests do confirm the presence of a degenerative disease, they will likely try to treat it through some treatment combination of anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, and possible with the support of holistic alternative therapies (e.g. yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy).
  • If the treatments are successful in bringing the symptoms to an acceptable level in patients, then the patient will be able to live in comfort without any necessary invasive treatments, such as back bracing or back surgery. If these treatments do not provide any back pain relief to the patient, then invasive back surgery may be performed (this is only necessary in a small percentage of cases).

So what's the problem with the scenario as presented above? The patient experiences pain in their lower back, and the medical imaging results conform the presence of an anatomical problem indicating a probable cause of the patient's symptoms. The data presented in the medical imaging pictures and videos seems to confirm the hypothesis that cause of pain is due to a degenerative change in the part of the back where the patient has the symptoms. Case closed, right? Well, actually there is a growing community of doctors who oppose this view, and they have relevant research results to support their case. For more information, check out this article on

One of the things that patients need to know is that virtually all people who have approached middle age and beyond have degenerative changes in their backs. And yes, this goes for people who have no back pain at all. Conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, and scoliosis occur throughout the general population, include legions of people who feel fine. It must also be noted that the majority of people who are obese and have a non-active lifestyle also have no back pain symptoms. Experts such as John Sarno say that you are likely to discover lumbar herniated discs on virtually anyone you shine a camera on. The presence of these types of back problems upon medical imaging simply state that you are just like the rest of us, not different (by rest of us, I mean someone that experiences no back pain). There are several research studies out there that confirm these results.

Let's take a look at some of the less commonly used medical imaging tests used to determine the back pain generator.

Thermography: When tissues in the body become injured, due to injury, degeneration, or disease, chemicals in those tissues are released that trigger an inflammatory response in that part of the body. As a result of the inflammatory response, there is an increase in temperature. Thermography measures these increases in temperature, if present, to detect pathology.