Pretty much every day I address this question from patients. They come in after having an X-ray or MRI done after a few weeks of untreated back pain and may even have their orthopedic surgeon appointment set up. The problem remains that there is very little correlation between what we see on imaging and pain levels of a patient.
As a matter of fact, this is probably one of the bigger educational challenges I have in my practice because society has brainwashed into thinking that all the answers lie in the MRI or X-ray and they are infallible. I can’t tell you how many times I have had patients come in with knee pain due to “arthritis.” However, after 2 or 3 visits they are greatly improved. We obviously did nothing to magically get rid of the arthritis, but the arthritis was not the pain generator for this patient.
This particular article reinforces this same concept for back pain, with a specific focus on those over 60 years of age. The researchers found a very high level of arthritis of the spine (75.8%), but only a small portion (28.8%) had back pain. And again, referring back to the knee example above, how many of these patients with back pain would still have symptoms after a solid course of chiropractic care coupled with soft tissue treatment?
The bottom line is that arthritis is something we see on X-rays or on MRI, but it is merely the canvas on which your symptoms may be painted. Only rarely is surgery in these cases a good idea with a good outcome. Without a doubt, your best first option for any type of pain is a Mesa chiropractor. And this is NOT my bias, but rather, strongly supported by claims data from insurance companies and clinical studies.