Do You Really Need an MRI?

Many clients come to me with chronic back pain (or neck, shoulder, hip and knee pain) having already scheduled a visit to their orthopedist for X-rays and MRIs. Most of them haven't had a recent accident or injury – it's just that they don't know what else to do when it comes to their muscle pain. Many return after having had X-rays and MRIs; predictably, these diagnostics didn't show anything and yielded no answers. Many articles have been published about the burgeoning costs of unnecessary diagnostics. One of the most disturbing statements in Overtreatment in Action was:

"According to Bloomberg, companies like WellPoint and Magellan Health Services believe that expensive and unnecessary CT and MRI scans cost them roughly $30 billion a year."

Another article questioned whether or not the availability of MRI machines can be tied to a rise in unnecessary back surgeries. It says:

There is no clear data to prove that lower back surgery is the best option for patients' well being, particularly compounded with the risks of hospital-acquired infections or surgical complications.

MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans have their place in medical science to aid in diagnosing a potential disease or pathology, or a bone fracture/break. Yet most cases of tight, painful muscles have little to do with a genuine medical condition and everything to do with the way in which we physically adapt to the stresses of our lives. Doctors typically look for structural problems when the root cause of most muscle pain is functional in nature. Unfortunately current medical school education does not focus on functional movement nor the sensory motor system that moves our muscles and bones. What these expensive, specialized machines are incapable of diagnosing is exactly that: muscle function and muscle movement.

Sensory Motor Amnesia cannot be measured by an MRI or an X-ray, nor can it be fixed with surgery or drugs.

Most chronic muscle pain develops over time due to one's habitual, muscular responses and adaptations to stress: sudden accidents, injuries, emotional stress, and repetitive tasks. It is something one is doing or a way one is thinking and reacting to life that causes a gradual accumulation of muscle tension to the point of chronic muscle pain.

When faced with a certain stress, the brain - the command center of the muscles - teaches muscles to stay tight and involuntarily contracted. This state of habitually tight, "frozen" muscles is called Sensory Motor Amnesia(SMA). SMA contributes to back, neck and shoulder, hip, knee and foot pain, and inefficient movement; tight muscles cannot contract and relax properly. Trying to move well with SMA is like trying to drive a car with the emergency brake on.

No wonder so many back surgeries don’t “cure” back pain — in some cases it even exacerbates it. Most back pain is functional, not structural. Change the way you sense and move your body and your pain will go away.

How do you know if you have Sensory Motor Amnesia?

Do you feel as if your movement is not as efficient as it used to be? Think about your lifestyle and history of accidents or repetitive tasks.

  • Do you spend a lot of time sitting? If so, how do you sit?
  • Have you ever taken a fall or had an accident (car, sports, lifting)  in which you had to compensate until you felt better?
  • Do you drive a lot? If yes, how do you sit in your car?
  • Do you arch your back excessively? Slump forward?
  • Do you stand with equal weight on both feet?
  • Do you hold children on your hip? If yes, for how many years have you done that?

Try this: move slowly and gently - bend, twist, shift from one leg to the other. Notice what you can and cannot do. Maybe you can move easily tothe left, but not to the right. This will begin to shed light on your problem.

If you think your problem is due to what you do all day, how you move and how you have learned to compensate with your muscles, your healthcare dollars are better spent  going to a class, workshop, or private clinical session of Hanna Somatics than seeking technological answers for a problem that can only be "fixed" by you.