Modic changes and their associations with clinical findings

Eur Spine J. 2006 Sep;15(9):1312-9. doi: 10.1007/s00586-006-0185-x. Epub 2006 Aug 9.


It is believed that disc degeneration (DD) is, in general, only mildly associated with low back pain (LBP). MRI-identified Modic changes (MC), probably a late stage of DD, are relatively strongly associated with LBP but it is not known if people with MC also have a specific clinical profile. The purpose of this study was to investigate if the clinical findings differ in people with Modic changes (MC) as compared to those with only degenerative disc findings or none at all. In a population-based sample of 412 40-year-old Danes, information was collected independently with MRI, questionnaires and clinical examination. Three subgroups of people were created: those with both DD and MC, those with only DD, and those with neither DD nor MC. The clinical pattern was investigated for each subgroup in order to test the assumption that the clinical picture differs in the three groups. It was expected that people with both DD and MC would have a more pronounced clinical profile than those with only DD who, in turn, would differ from those with neither of these two MRI findings. Our findings were generally in concordance with our expectations. MC constitutes the crucial element in the degenerative process around the disc in relation to LBP, history, and clinical findings. People with DD and no MC only vaguely differ from those without. People with LBP and MC may deserve to be diagnosed as having specific LBP.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiopathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / physiopathology*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Sciatica / etiology
  • Sciatica / physiopathology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires