If you have had back pain or sciatica (pain down the leg) that has lasted, you may have had an x-ray or MRI scan. In the past people were told that the changes on the scan were the reason for their pain. We now know it’s not as simple as that, and we don’t want you to become a VOMIT!
The term stands for Victim Of Medical Imaging Technology. It was first used by a consultant neurosurgeon in an article in the British Medical Journal in 2003.
Investigations such as x-rays, MRI & CT scans and ultrasound scans are very valuable in finding or ruling out serious and sinister medical conditions. In English that means cancer, neurological problems, spinal cord compression and broken bones.
Once those things have been ruled out, other ‘normal’ changes do not explain the majority of aches and pains.You can get pain with either mild or no scan changes! Even severe scan changes exist very commonly in people with NO pain.
There have been studies that show that telling people about these ‘normal’ changes, by using unhelpful words. can be harmful from a psychological point of view. It has even been shown to lead to longer lasting pain, more disability and a lower sense of well being. For a poster version of this please see this excellent article
Osteoarthritic changes are normal! Just like you get grey hair and wrinkles on the outside, you get older inside. Now we don’t call it degenerative hair disease or degenerative skin disease but medically things get called ‘degenerative disc disease’, ‘degenerative joint disease’, ‘degenerative tendons’. It is correct in the medical terminology but just not very user friendly!
The findings of tears and degeneration have now been found in many studies when they scan people with no pain. It has been seen in lower backs, necks, shoulders, knees and hips. No link has been found between degenerative changes seen on x-rays and MRI’s and lower back pain. That is a statement that few people know, we are hoping that you can spread the word.
Science has changed what we know, and research units get funding money for these studies but unfortunately they do not get any money to publicise what they have found!
In summary, if you have been told that you have any of the things mentioned above and still have pain, maybe consider that there is something you CAN do about it. Treat the person with the problem, not just the report.