Back pain can be scary, especially when an MRI finds something abnormal. While they can seem scary, structural findings on a diagnostic scan don’t always equate with pain or are the cause of the pain.
Abnormal MRI findings are normal in people without pain, especially as age increases. Over 50% of 30-year-olds with no pain show signs of disk degeneration increasing up to 80% at age 50 (Brinjikji, et al, 2015).
And although chronic back pain is a common medical complaint, no specific cause is found in up to 85% of cases with central sensitization as a potential contributing factor (Sanzarello, et al, 2016) along with fear of pain and activity as maintaining factors.
Check out these back facts from OSullivan, et al, 2020:
Tom Bowen is a chronic pain patient who turned into an advocate, educator, and collaborator.