There is a back problem epidemic in the world because often these pains have been diagnosed on X-rays where we see things irrelevant  to the patient’s problem.

Research confirms this observation and in addition states that minor traumas, sudden movements or efforts have no relation to back pain.

Two recent studies (which won the Volvo Awards = like the Oscar for low back pain research) by Carragee et al. have refuted two extremely common practices in the world of spine care:

  1. the widespread tendency to find diagnostic answers in MRI abnormalities of uncertain   age and significance.

2. the reflexive linking of back pain to trauma;

They concluded that most findings on a MRI scan or X-rays are of uncertain significance and have no obvious connection to recent back pain episodes, because most people with those abnormalities are symptom free ( osteoporosis, annular tears, disc degenerations, scoliosis, spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis, congenital anomalies, etc. are common among both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals).
New episodes of serious low back pain rarely have a relationship to new abnormalities on MRI scans (except in new disc herniations ) .

back painThe study blew also a large hole in the injury model of low back pain by demonstrating that serious back pain and disability do not stem from minor trauma, structural malformations, or a combination of the two.

Attributions of disc herniations are often blamed on discrete events like a fall, a slip or lifting at work (I would add an adjustment)  and often take on substantial medico-legal  importance, but according to the research by King et al. they are almost never accurate.

Their extensive literature review showed that under normal compressive loading, in upright or bent postures, it takes thousands of cycles of loading to rupture a disc. Therefore a traumatic event that occurred immediately before a sciatica should be viewed as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

So most attributions of discrete events as a blame for disc herniations are unscientific and perpetuate an injury model that doesn’t exist under normal human loading conditions.

back pain

Often, also sometimes to please patients, doctors prescribe X-rays that are absolutely irrelevant. This tendency to trust technology for symptoms such as headache, neck- or back pain is useless because most of the time it  does not help cure patients.


These findings confirm largely what we have seen over the years at the Sanrocco chiropractic clinic, that  X-Rays and MRI’s are more useful for finding contraindications to the use of certain chiropractic techniques than finding indications of what to treat. We also observed that X-rays are many times used by health professionals as an excuse for lack of knowledge and to prescribe drugs or useless surgery.


In other words, normal disc degeneration (i.e. normal spinal anatomy) has been turned by many “spine specialists” into a degenerative disc DISEASE and therefore used as a treatment indication. (If disc degeneration is a disease than you have a lot of sick people in the world.)

Now finally a new clinical guideline from the American College of Physicians published in the beginning of 2011 says that routine spinal imaging literally has no value – and should be eliminated from modern back care. They not only found strong evidence that routine imaging for low back pain by using X-Rays or NMR’s is not associated with a clinically meaningful effect on patient outcomes, but also that it often leads to a long and expensive cascade of unnecessary referrals, nonsurgical treatments, interventional pain procedures, and useless surgery. (Bauer et  al.: Spine 32 oct. 2013)

Recently another large hole has been shot in finding diagnostic answers on imaging scans: The so called visual evidence of spinal stenosis on MRI, CT, do not have any consistent relationship with pain  and symptoms in patients. Spinal stenosis is the most common surgical indication among people older than 65 years and just think that often this patients are routed toward surgery on the basis of imaging scans. (Burgstaller JM et al., Spine, 2017; 41(7):E1053-62.)

It is important to know that most  back exercises are NOT the answer to low back pain.

This was confirmed by the new findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, where researchers followed for 18 months 700 patients with low back pain. Those who walked and got other forms of “recreational” exercise like brisk walking or swimming had a lower risk of pain over time. In contrast, those who performed exercises specifically for their backs appeared to make matters worse.

Also sitting is not beneficial for people with low-back pain. Being sedentary delays recovery and makes the back more prone to (pain) recurrence.

back painMc Beth et al. found that exercises designed to increase cardio-respiratory fitness instead of specific back exercises improved the health status of patients with chronic pain by 35% in a period of 6 months.

That is why we don’t give many exercises at Sanrocco, except brisk walking, swimming or any physical activity as long as the patient likes it  and does not damage his back. Even small adjustments in daily life, such as the proper way to bend, sit and lift weights can be of great help.

In 1993 one of the most complete  studies on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of management of low back-pain by Manga et al., funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and therefore not manipulated by private interests, demonstrated already that:

–  Many medical therapies are of questionable validity or are clearly inadequate. That has been confirmed later on by Deyo, Carette et al., Staal, Chou, Carragee, Elshaug et al. and Manchikani , whom demonstrated that many medical standard approaches, i.e. bedrest, massage,  “tens” or other forms of electrotherapy, steroid injections into the articular facets and almost all surgical interventions are inefficient or are clearly inferior to chiropractic treatment.

–  There is an overwhelming body of evidence indicating that spinal manipulations applied by chiropractors are safer than medical approaches and more effective than any other treatment for LBP.

Moreover in work-related nonspecific LBP the use of chiropractic services, which generally cost less than services from other providers, have a significantly lower risk of recurrent disability than when the care is provided by physical therapists, physicians or when there is no treatment at all. (Cifuentes et al.).



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