Radiology Tests for Low Back Pain Usually Unnecessary

February 17, 2011

The American College of Physicians has now published its opinion regarding diagnostic radiology tests after reviewing the results of six studies. The opinion couldn’t be more blunt:

“Routine radiology tests have no benefit for musculoskeletal low back pain. Six good studies that compared routine radiology tests with no testing for patients with musculoskeletal low back pain showed that patients did about the same regardless of whether they got the tests. Some studies even suggested that patients did better without routine testing.”

The report goes on to address why so many unnecessary tests are performed, and when such diagnostics are in fact appropriate.

Instead of x-rays, CT and/or MRI scans, physicians are counseled to advise patients how to manage symptoms, including maintaining physical activity, over-the-counter medications to manage pain, and options for self-care, such as the use of heat, physical therapy, massage and other non-medical options.

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