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Dysfunction does not always equal pain

Dysfunction does not always equal pain

Diagnostic imaging (i.e. X-ray, MRI, CT scan) can be beneficial when you have an injury to see a bigger picture of what is going on inside the body. Having the results of an MRI or X-ray when you start physical therapy can help to guide the treatment approach but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

A recent study looked at over 1,000 people age 20-70 years that had no pain or symptoms in their neck. The participants then underwent an MRI for the cervical spine. Over 70% of participants that were in their 20’s showed some type of disc bulge on their MRI even though they were not in pain! The study also showed that the prevalence of a disc bulge for the whole population was 87%.

So what does this tell us? This shows us that dysfunction in the body does not always mean that it is causing pain. A skilled physical therapist should take into consideration the findings of diagnostic imaging but should also rely on their own testing to make a comprehensive diagnosis of why you are in pain.


Lukas Mehling PT, DPT

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