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Screening for Low Back Pain and Sciatica

En Español (Spanish Version)

Main Page | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Screening | Reducing Your Risk | Talking to Your Doctor | Living With Low Back Pain and Sciatica | Living With Low Back Pain and Sciatica | Resource Guide

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests and Guidelines

There are no screening tests or screening guidelines for low back pain and sciatica.

Often, patients with pain may feel an urgent need to have a imaging studies. Imaging studies are not routinely required for back pain and sciatica.

Most episodes of acute back pain resolve on their own over several weeks. In these cases, the information from an x-ray or MRI scan may not change the medical plan, so these tests may be unnecessary. An MRI or x-ray is usually ordered if there is a plan to do a procedure or surgery based on the result of the images.

Studies of medical imaging have demonstrated that MRI and x-ray may be too sensitive. They can often show abnormalities that are not truly significant, such as degenerated discs in individuals who do not even have symptoms. An improper medical test can lead to improper treatment and can greatly increase medical costs. It is important for such tests to be ordered appropriately.

 

References:

  • Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2012.
  • Boden, S. D.; Davis, D. O.; Dina, T. S.; Patronas, N. J.; and Wiesel, S. W.: Abnormal magnetic-resonance scans of the lumbar spine in asymptomatic subjects. A prospective investigation. J. Bone and Joint Surg . 72-A:403-408, March 1990.
  • Boden SD. The use of radiographic imaging studies in the evaluation of patients who have degenerative disorders of the lumbar spine. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery - American Volume. 78(1):114-24, 1996 Jan.
  • Bogduk N, et al. Degenerative joint disease of the spine. Radiol Clin North Am . 2012;15(4):613-28.
  • Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2012.
  • Chou R, Fu R, Carrino JA, Deyo RA. Imaging strategies for low-back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2009;373:463-472.
  • Jensen MC, Brant-Zawadzki MN, Obuchowski N, Modic MT, Malkasian D, Ross JS. Magnetic resonance imaging of the lumbar spine in people without back pain. N Engl J Med. 1994;331:69-73.
  • Pain. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/detail_chronic_pain.htm#Spine . Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2012.
  • Russo RB. Diagnosis of low back pain: role of imaging studies. Clinics in Occupational & Environmental Medicine . 5(3):571-89, vi, 2006.
  • Sciatica. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated August 26, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2012.
  • Zhou Y. Abdi S. Diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment of lumbar discogenic pain--a review of the literature. Clinical Journal of Pain . 22(5):468-81, 2006 Jun.

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