Should I Get Back Surgery? Not After Seeing this MRI…

By /

Should I Get Back Surgery

Most patients understand that back surgery is bad news. This is because most know someone first or second hand that has had their back ruined by surgery. However, as a physician, I still get asked the question, “Should I get back surgery?” For those that still think this could be a good option, a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case a low back MRI showing the low back stabilizing muscles completely destroyed by surgery.

Most patients don’t know that one of the reasons their spine doesn’t fly apart when they move is due to tight and precise muscular control stabilizing one back bone on the other. The muscles that accomplish this are called multifidus and they can be easily seen on a low back MRI but are often ignored by radiologists and surgeons. This is despite more than a hundred research studies showing that they are critical for a healthy and pain free spine.

This patient’s MRI is similar to thousands I have reviewed over the last 25 years, but it’s dramatic enough so that even someone who doesn’t look at MRIs all day will see what’s going on. Notice that in the dashed lines on the right, is the dark muscle of someone with low back pain. It’s smaller than someone who doesn’t have back pain, but it’s still hanging in there. On the left is the MRI of the patient I just evaluated this week who had low back surgery. Note that in the dashed lines is mostly white, which means mostly dead muscle. What happened? The surgery killed off the stabilizing muscles which means his low back is permanently unstable at this level.

The upshot? Low back surgery is usually bad news. While there are a few people who couldn’t get better without it, the vast majority of low back surgeries done in the U.S. and elsewhere are unnecessary. In addition, now you can visually see the havoc they wreck on the body by seeing what a dead low back stabilizing muscle looks like on MRI!

Learn about Regenexx procedures for spine conditions.

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, please email us at [email protected]

NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

Get Blog Updates by Email

By submitting the form, you are agreeing that you read and consent to our Privacy Policy. We may also contact you via email, phone, and other electronic means to communicate information about our products and services. We do not sell, or share your information to third party vendors.

Copyright © Regenexx 2021. All rights reserved.



9035 Wadsworth Pkwy #1000
Westminster, CO 80021


*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.