When you experience low back pain, it can be extremely severe at times. We rationalize that something within must be very wrong. At times this may be true but science concludes otherwise.
In a recent issue of the medical journal, Lancet, the authors concluded, “Lumbar [meaning lower back] imaging for low-back pain without indications of serious underlying conditions does not improve clinical outcomes. Therefore, clinicians should refrain from routine, immediate lumbar imaging in patients with acute or subacute low-back pain and without features suggesting a serious underlying condition.”
Only your doctor can determine if you have a “serious condition”. Rest assured serious lower back problems very rare. In most cases an MRI adds little to no additional information to will affect your treatment or your outcome.
For acute (meaning of recent onset) and subacute (less than 3 months of pain) lower back pain, a referral to a physical therapist is the best choice.