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Brett Sears

Physical Therapy and Advanced Imaging

By November 28, 2012

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I had a patient cancel her initial physical therapy evaluation today. She told my receptionist that she wanted to wait until she had her MRI next week before starting physical therapy. She wanted me to know what to do to help her low back pain.

An MRI does not help me decide what to do to my patients.

An MRI can be a useful tool to help determine serious problems in your body. It can help a surgeon find a ruptured disc or a torn ligament. An MRI may also help locate sinister problems like tumors in your body.

In physical therapy, a well conducted examination and assessment should be enough to help me decide on the best treatment for your low back pain. An MRI won't do that. Make sure that your P.T. is not relying too heavily on MRI findings. He or she should be relying on the results of your clinical examination to make decisions about your care.

If you are having serious neurological symptoms like bowel or bladder dysfunction or weakness in your leg because of sciatica, then an MRI may be in order. (Again, your physical therapist's well conducted exam will identify these problems.) In these cases, see your doctor right away.

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