When it comes to back pain, psychological distress is a more reliable predictor of the problem than imaging and diagnostic disc injection, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers say. Their finding could affect how doctors treat back pain, which often includes costly surgery that insurance companies are increasingly reluctant to cover.
Most adults in the United States will experience disabling lower back pain at least once in their lives, but their doctors frequently cant find a specific physical cause. In a four-year investigation that followed patients who initially had no lower back pain, researchers studied their subjects spines using both disc injection and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. And they also got to know their research subjects through psychological evaluations. It turned out that psychological factors more accurately predicted who would develop lower back pain than the two diagnostic techniques.
In people both with and without back pain, MRI can detect cracks or tears in the spongy cartilage disc that cushions each unit of the spine. Some doctors also have suggested that if a patient feels pain when fluid is injected into one of the spines discs in a procedure called discography, the patient will soon develop back pain even if he or she doesnt already feel discomfort.
Michelle Brandt | EurekAlert!
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