Back Pain, MRIs & PT- What you should know

Melissa Weaver
Melissa Weaver Physical Therapist at AHS

Have you been experiencing back pain and are wondering if you should ask a Doctor about getting an MRI? PT may be a better option, here’s why:

What really is causing your back pain?

If your back pain varies depending on the time of day or gets worse with certain activities like sitting during a long commute or bending over, getting an MRI may not be immediately needed. Pain is multifactorial and based on your current perception of threat, past experiences, and stress level among many other factors. 

Because pain level is not directly related to tissue damage, findings on MRIs and X-rays won’t always give the whole picture of why you’re in pain. Instead, a thorough movement screen and medical history taking from a physical therapist may provide far better answers than a static image.

The cost savings with PT

A study, which looked into the cost effectiveness of physical therapy, compared more than 150,000 commercial health insurance claims filed between 2009 and 2013 in six northwestern states. It reported that patients who got physical therapy first had a 28 percent lower probability of having any advanced imaging services and an 89 percent lower probability of eventually needing an opioid prescription.

Medical imaging will always have its place but when it comes to getting better sooner, getting physical therapy first can help jump-start the recovery process.  Avoid the hassle of expensive imaging until absolutely necessary. 

How Therapists at AHS can help


At Allied Health Solutions, your physical therapist will do an evaluation on your first visit and determine the best course of action to address your specific concerns and help you develop a plan to get moving and feeling better. A doctor’s referral is not needed for your first appointment.



Frogner Ph.D., B.  et al., May 2018, Physical Therapy as the First Point of Care to Treat Low Back Pain: An Instrumental Variables Approach to Estimate Impact on Opioid Prescription, Health Care Utilization, and Costs. Retrieved from:

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