Wear and tear on xray

Hi I’m 52 and have had sciatic and back pain intermittently for 4 years. My job is mainly standing and moving and I’ve realised my back gets bad after days of sitting. I have now had lower back pain for 5 months so I had an X-ray and my doctor said it showed wear and tear which he said is osteoarthritis also called spondylosis. However I’ve read on this forum that X-rays are not helpful in diagnosing osteoarthritis. Is my doctor wrong? Thank-you


  • Hi @Elleclaire5, welcome to the Online Community! It is lovely to have you here.

    According to the NHS, an X-ray might be used to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoarthritis/. So after other assessments such as asking you about symptoms and perhaps a physical examination, the X-ray may have been carried out to confirm your condition was OA and not something else. However, I am not medically qualified and of course the GP may have had other reasons to do your X-ray, so please do ask your doctor if you have concerns.

    Here is the information from Versus Arthritis about osteoarthritis of the spine, which can also be called spondylosis: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/osteoarthritis-oa-of-the-spine/, I hope this is of some use to you. There are also some stretches and exercises that help some people with back pain, here's a guide if you're interested: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/healthcare-professionals/training-and-education-resources/useful-resources/back-pain-exercises/.

    Please do let us know how you get on, and in the meantime I hope you'll continue to enjoy browsing and participating in the community.

    Best wishes, Sarah (mod)

  • Lilymary
    Lilymary Member Posts: 1,740
    edited 15. May 2021, 11:08

    My OA was diagnosed on X-ray alone, which is pretty good at picking up bone conditions (ie because it’s a dense solid material). Other scans are needed if it’s soft tissue damage (MRI or CT). So if there’s something going on other than OA further investigations may be appropriate. Your doc can advise on that. Other tests are required for RA (eg blood tests).

  • Hi Elleclaire5

    Thank you for your posting on the forum and welcome. I see that you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in your spine and ask if X-rays are helpful in diagnosing osteoarthritis. I see that SarahGF has posted a comprehensive reply and provided links to information about diagnosis and osteoarthritis of the spine. As she has stated in diagnosing osteoarthritis tests such as X rays or blood tests are not usually necessary, but may be used to rule out other possible causes, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

    As suggested there are things that can help to manage back pain such as exercise and pain medication. Our website has more information on treatments and self help that you can access on the following link Managing your pain

    You can speak to your GP about pain medication and ask about a referral to a physiotherapist  who can advise on a programme of specific exercises and general advice on your activity level.

     If you would like to talk things through with us here on the helpline regarding arthritis you are very welcome to call us and speak to one of our helpline advisors. You can do this by calling us on 0800 5200 520 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).


    I hope this information is helpful.


    Best Wishes


    Helpline Advisor