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Should I get an MRI for my back pain if I have been in pain for less than 6 weeks and don’t have red flag signs (neurologic weakness, inability to control bowel or bladder function, persistent fever with back pain, unintentional weight loss)?


MedHead Confidence Score: 8
Amount Saved: $2000 MRI/office visit cost post


MedHead Message:

Most people with acute (recently and suddenly occurring) low back pain tend to have almost complete resolution within 2-3 weeks. MRI costsĀ  a lot of money. It may be tempting to want to look and see what’s going on, but who will pay for it? If you have “alarm” symptoms like weakness in one foot or hand but not the other or unable to control your bowel or bladder function, then you will need an MRI right away. But the vast majority of people with low back pain end up not needing an MRI. The pain resolves. Even if pain persists for weeks, if you don’t have the “alarm” symptoms, it’s less likely that MRI will be helpful. Start with a back x-ray first.



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