Research says that what and how a consultant tells you your scan results affects how much pain you feel afterwards and what you can do. So asking, “Is it normal?” is key. Here’s the research evidence and why it effects pain.

Research Evidence.

400 people with back pain had an MRI* scan. A consultant told each of them what the scan showed. Half of the 400 (who were picked at random) were also told that their results were due to ‘normal age-related adaptations’. On leaving the consultant, all 400 were asked to say how much pain they felt on bending over. Those who had been told that their scan was normal for their age had less pain than those who were not told that.

Why Does It Make A Difference?

  • The brain and body work closely together to protect us from danger: This is critical for our survival and normal tissue health.
  • Within this, the brain uses all the information it has to decide whether it needs to act to protect the body. Whether we feel pain or not is a result of that decision.
  • The more ‘dangerous’ the results of a scan appear to be, the more our brain will make pain to ensure that we act to protect ourselves.

Other Useful Questions to Ask Your Consultant.

  • “Do others with the same scan results feel (fill in the amount and type of your) pain?” This question comes from the fact that people with the same physical condition/state often have very different experiences of pain.
  • “Is this dangerous? Do I need to protect my …?” This question will give you a better idea of whether you should be concerned, and what you should or shouldn’t be doing to protect it. Follow this question up with “What can I safely do? And how do I do it?”

We hope this article has been of interest and helpful.

*An MRI can give a detailed image of almost any body part, including the; brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, heart and blood vessels, and internal organs, e.g., liver, womb or prostate gland. It does this using strong magnetic fields and radio waves.

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