Can MRI Predict Low Back Pain?


Low back pain is one of the most common medical complaints of adults world-wide, yet it is often non-specific in nature, meaning that specific structural causes are often difficult to detect. Moreover, low back pain often comes and goes, or worsens and gets better, without explanation.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is often used in the diagnosis of low back pain because it is able to distinguish soft tissues such as disc, nerves, and muscles, which can be the source of low back pain. However, despite the ability of MRI to reveal soft tissues at the locus of pain, it is often ineffective in determining the patient’s specific cause of low back pain.

A Study on MRI and Low Back Pain

A 10-year longitudinal analysis conducted by Tonosu et al. (2017) sought to determine whether MRI conducted on patients reporting low back pain in the years 2005 and 2006 was predictive of episodes of low back pain experienced over the following 10-year period between the baseline results and the follow-up analysis.

The authors found that follow-up MRI results had no association with the history of low back pain in the follow-up study participants during the 10 years between the baseline and follow-up analysis. They also found that baseline MRI results were not associated with the patients’ history of low back pain over the course of the following 10 years, leading them to conclude that MRI findings are not able to predict future reports of low back pain.

Treatment for Low Back Pain in NYC

Low back pain can have many causes, including postural, gait and muscular issues occurring in areas of the body far away from the locus of pain. The sports medicine team at NYDNRehab works with patients to resolve their low back pain by getting to the source. Using cutting-edge technologies like real-time ultrasonography and video gait analysis, we create individualized treatment programs that address the patients’ particular needs, to correct deficiencies and restore pain-free function.

If you suffer from bouts of low back pain, contact NYDNRehab today, and see why we are the foremost rehabilitation clinic in NYC.


Tonosu, Juichi, et al. “The associations between magnetic resonance imaging findings and low back pain: A 10-year longitudinal analysis.” PloS one 12.11 (2017): e0188057.


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