Tissue damage and Pain
For most people, it is unthinkable that their pain will never go away. Even when doctors do find some changes in the discs of our neck or back, the symptoms accompanying it are unpredictable and variable: two persons with the identical disc changes can have two very different sets of symptoms and personal experiences. In fact, many of us have scary sounding disc bulges, even squashed nerves, yet may never have any symptoms. Arthritis patients have been widely studied in this respect, and a number of studies show that there is no link between their pain and the extent of damage in their joints as measured with X-rays.
Do MRI scans help?
It is tempting to point to changes in anatomical structure seen on X-rays or scans as the cause of pain. Unfortunately, this assumption is not always correct. As many as 90% of patients with severe low back pain have perfectly normal spine X-rays. On the other hand, one-third of healthy people without any complaints of back pain actually have spinal disc prolapse on CT or MRI scans. In addition, episodes of back pain, even with X-ray or MRI evidence of a disc prolapse, resolve without treatment in approximately 70% of individuals—and a significant proportion of spine surgeries end up in failure or with added complications.
It is possible for you to have bothersome pain without a serious medical cause, and it is possible to successfully treat a serious medical problem without reducing your pain. Fortunately, it is also possible to manage your pain without curing the underlying medical problem that causes it.