When NOT to get an MRI

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Dillon describes MRI diagnostics, when to get and not to get an MRI, and alternative diagnostics for back pain.

Back pain is classified as acute or chronic (three months or longer). It is not advised to image the back unless the pain has been present for seven weeks or longer, or if is associated fever or neurological damage on physical examination.  There is no need for MRI scans, unless the pain exists for a longer period of time than just a week or two. Lots of back pain just relates to musculoskeletal.  Some relief for back pain can be through analgesics, non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin, exercise, physical therapy, ice, and image guided therapies. 


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