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Don't be a VOMIT: Victim of Medical Imaging Technology

Have you been told about “abnormal” findings on your medical imaging? Did you know that medical imaging, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs can be deceiving and even harmful? Patients are informed of coincidental tendon tears, disc bulges, degenerations, and arthritic changes are rarely told the whole truth about their imaging results, and aren’t informed of what is normal and what is not normal.

Once serious conditions, such as broken bones, have been ruled out, the majority of imaging results are not helpful in explaining the vast majority of aches and pains, such as that lingering knee pain you can’t seem to get rid of. Time and time again, peer-reviewed studies have shown that those who are told of “abnormal” (though irrelevant) findings on their medical imaging have more doctor’s visits, longer-lasting pain, more disability, and a lower sense of well-being.

So, what should you know and what is common?

Often, problems pointed out as abnormal, are actually common. Did you know that it is common that most people can have arthritis in their joints? Believe it or not, in many cases, arthritis is not the cause of pain. More specifically, the origin of pain comes from how your joints, muscles, and nervous system function together when performing a task.

Here are some statistics to consider on common findings for your lumbar spine, thoracic spine, cervical spine, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle.

Lumbar Spine

Many people who are referred to our office in Maple Ridge, primarily for Physiotherapy and Chiropractic with back pain syndromes, often come with no hope as they have been told that the cause of their pain is due to arthritis or degenerative changes. It is not any practitioners’ fault for pointing this out as the culprit as this continues to be taught in health and medical education. But, in many cases, people who present with arthritis have significant pain reduction and improvement in functional ability when seeking conservative treatment like Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Registered Massage Therapy, and Acupuncture.

What does this mean?

If you’ve had an MRI that shows “problems” with your discs, don’t panic as it is common from age 20 and up. If you’re experiencing pain, it is most likely a reduction in proper structural function of these areas. Just like a house, if you see a crack in the wall, this isn’t the cause of the problem, it is most likely the foundation.

In fact, this logical fallacy follows other imaging as well.

More information you should know:

Thoracic Spine

Cervical Spine





So, we have to be cautious about what we see from film. Correlation does not equal causation and might mislead you into thinking you have a bad injury when really, it’s actually a common finding and something that you shouldn’t be worried about. So, if you are in pain and you were sent for an MRI or other imaging to determine the problem, it is just a piece of the bigger picture. The real benefit to reducing pain and improving the problem will be to detect how pain is impairing your movements.

Reference: Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute. (2014). VOMIT (Victim of Medical Imaging Technology). Retrieved from https://www.aptei.ca/library-article/vomit-victim-of-medical-imaging-technology/

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