Why An MRI Might Hurt: Advice From A Physiotherapist Dublin Specialist

Why An MRI Might Hurt: Advice From A Physiotherapist Dublin Specialist

I have two disc bulges and disc degenerative disc disease”.

Have you been told by your doctor not to bend down, to take medication, or worse still- that you’ll always have a bad back?

Back Pain is a horrible experience

It comes from nowhere, stops you in your tracks. It drains your energy, causes ferocious pain and prevents you from walking, sitting or sleeping well. Sneezing can feel like the stab of a knife. You can even have weird pain down your legs. You’ve gone to the trouble and expense of getting a MRI scan and it’s confirmed all your fears. The doctor has emphasised that you have two bulging discs and that you really need to mind your back. You hand me over the report with a worried look on your face………. DON’T WORRY!

MRI results for healthy adults with NO back pain

  • 83% had moderate to severe desiccation of one or more discs
  • 64% had one or more disc bulges
  • 56% had a loss of disc height
  • 32% had a disc protrusion

People in Ireland get MRI for their backs way too often. It’s not enough to justify it by saying “it’s just to rule out the sinister stuff” or “My mother suffered with her back for years so I just wanted to be safe rather than sorry” or worse still “good job I did it because it showed up all this…

But here is the problem…


Pain is an output of the brain.

(I realise this can challenge what you currently believe and what seems logical) Pain generally doesn’t come from a structure like a ligament or a disc. Pain can be turned on or turned up by anything that provides the brain with credible evidence that the body is in danger and needs to be protected.
What more credible evidence can there be than seeing the images right there on the laptop and being told by your GP that “your spine is out of place”, “you have disc degeneration or a bulging disc”.

These are scary terms and can increase fear but findings like this are completely normal if you’re a human over the age of 23. They are like wrinkles, just on the inside. They are simply the ‘kisses of time’.

You only got your pain 3 weeks ago. Who’s to say your MRI would have looked any different 4 weeks ago when you had no back pain and trained twice in the gym?

So the MRI provides clear evidence of danger and as a result our muscle tension increases, we move less and alter how we move. We stop doing the things we had planned and become hyper-aware of every ache and pain. All of this as a result of our “need to protect” meter being turned up.

Now you’re here trying to ‘get the disc back in’ and I have the cheek to tell you your MRI is pretty normal!! Please don’t get angry!!

I’m not telling you your pain is in your head, it’s clearly in your back. But, being a human, pain is not because of just one factor. It is produced by your brain as a means of protecting you. This pain will be produced more intensely if you have clear evidence of something showing up on an MRI scan.


In summary:

  • Put less value in your x-ray and MRI results. The link between imaging and pain is very poor
  • These results often become the cause of the problem, it creates a feeling that we are broken and need fixing. Feeling like this can influence pain.
  • Degeneration is like “wrinkles on the inside” Our face wrinkles with age. Does your face hurt?! (Greg Lehman)

“No brain, no pain: it is in the mind, so test results can make it worse!”

If you are worried about your back send an email to tommy@painandperformanceclinic.ie and request a FREE PHONE CALL where I will listen to your story and help explain any questions or fears you might have surrounding your back pain.

If you are interested in learning more about pain, look here:      www.painscience.com


Questions, bookings or feedback? Contact me by any of the channels below. I’ll respond ASAP!

P: 087 652 9287

E: tommy@painandperformanceclinic.ie

A: Pain & Performance Clinic, 12 Trinity Court, Fonthill Business Park, Dublin 22

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