Osteopaths, like doctors, will often need as much information as possible in order to get a diagnosis, when clinical examination on its own has not provided sufficient answers. For instance, a person may present with low back pain that does not follow one of these common patterns:
pain on flexion (bending forward) – which usually indicates a problem with the disc, and a possible disc bulge
pain on extension (bending backward) – which usually indicates a problem with the vertebrae, and a possible spondylolisthesis (forward slippage of one vertebra over another)
and so on…
Therefore, the use of medical imaging is often necessary. This may not be the first port of call. Initially, most osteopaths will give a period of 6 weeks from your initial presentation before requesting imaging, if there has been no improvement in symptoms. This would mean that the diagnosis may not be correct, and so treatment is currently proving to be ineffective.
So what imaging will be requested, and why? And how much does this all cost? Well depending on the presenting problem, the imaging technique will be one of:
x-ray – useful for looking at bone structure and suspected fractures (~£100)
MRI scan – useful for looking at soft tissues in detail, so an MRI of the spine would be requested instead of an x-ray if, for example, a disc bulge was suspected (~£200-600)
ultrasound scan – high resolution, dynamic assessment of soft tissues, can be used for guided interventions, such as injections, and is more detailed for looking at local anatomy compared to the more global outlook of an MRI (~£200)
CT scan – enhanced detail of bone pathology, useful for interventions such as injections (~£400)
These images are then reported by specialist radiologists and the reports will details what has been found by the scan and possible reasons for these occurrences. This will then give the osteopath a better picture of how to continue with treatment. The osteopath may be able to describe the images to you and will be able to explain the reports of the doctors to you in more detail if necessary. Hopefully this will help you understand why imaging is necessary, and what you can expect.
If you would like your scans and reports to be explained to you, or if you have any aches and pains, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy (with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.