It sounds worse than it really is…

Often times, I have clients that get x rays or MRIs performed for further diagnostics on their conditions.  Usually, they get the results of the scans before they actually see their doctor for a follow up to go over the results to decide the best treatment approach.  When this happens, clients read the report with all the big medical words glaring at them and the next thing you know the client begins to think the worst of their condition.  They do frantic internet searches and read stories.  The worry sets in.  STOP!!! 

I have had to bring clients down from the ledge when I sense they are stressing over what all those big medical words are saying.  First, the films only give us a glimpse into what is CURRENTLY going on.  There is no timeline for how long said body part has looked the way it looks.  Unless you have had a series of films of the same body part over the years (which very few of us have had, I hope), it is difficult to determine if what the film is showing is the PRIMARY issue causing the condition.    Can it be a contributor?  Yes.  100% the cause?  Not so fast.  If you’re young and healthy, and it’s a recent traumatic injury, then certainly whatever is wrong, that is most likely the cause.  Secondly, there are many people out in the world that may have similar looking films, but be completely asymptomatic.  For example, a herniated disc or a disc bulge in someone’s low back, one person could be in complete agony while their age matched counterpart is happily going about their daily routine without issue.  It seems unfair, but what triggered your back to get angry?  What was the one thing that “broke the camel’s back”?  Third, each person has a unique set of psychosocial contributors which may aid or hinder a person’s recovery.  We are all individuals with different stresses, activities, jobs, ways of coping, lifestyles…to name a few.   Sometimes just knowing that there is something “wrong” can exacerbate the symptoms since now that is all you are thinking about. 

The lesson here, DO NOT freak out thinking the worst with the film reports.  Either wait for your doctor to interpret those findings or have your physical therapist read it over and translate for you.  PTs are capable of understanding all the medical jargon in the report.  How else do you think we can decipher what the doctors are saying?  Often times, all those big words make it sound worse than it really is.  There are few times where the outcome is completely unexpected and unfortunately we must be strong to confront the issue.  In these cases, it doesn’t hurt to get a few opinions on the matter. 

Dr. Jamie So

Jamie So, PT, DPT, is the owner and physical therapist of Manual Therapy Effects.

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