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Diagnostic Tests: a static snapshot in time of a moving being


X-Rays, CT scans and MRIs are useful tools when your doctor is trying to determine what is physically damaged or degenerated inside your body.  They can give you tangible evidence of something physical that you can blame your pain on, but they often detract from the process of trying to determine why that structure is damaged.  A significant finding on a diagnostic test can tend to stop the clinician’s critical thinking process required to push past what is injured and instead figure out why it got injured.  This concept is particularly relevant in chronic pain issues that don’t stem from a traumatic accident, but is also important in cases that started with a trauma, but the person didn’t heal or improve along the expected time line.

An over reliance on hands off diagnostic tests is a fundamental reason why the medical model doesn’t deal very well with people with persistent pain issues and why experienced manual therapists like physios and osteopaths simply speak a different language than doctors.  Doctors will look at the pictures of inside of you, or commonly just read the report that another doctor wrote about the pictures of inside of you and then tell you what they believe to be wrong.  A good manual therapist will feel, watch and experience your movements with you to try and understand the movie that is happening in your body instead of the pictures of the aftermath.  A significant finding on an MRI or EMG study can be a red herring and distract you from what the underlying problem really is.

A healthy body is one that has good physiological movement in the joints, muscles, nerves and organs.  Tests that don’t assess the body in vertical or during functional movements shouldn’t be relied on too heavily to conclude what is or isn’t wrong with a person. 

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