American College of Physicians

View all recommendations from this society

Released April 4, 2012

Don’t obtain imaging studies in patients with non-specific low back pain.

In patients with back pain that cannot be attributed to a specific disease or spinal abnormality following a history and physical examination (e.g., non-specific low back pain), imaging with plain radiography, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) does not improve patient outcomes.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.


2009 NICE low back pain guideline; 2008 ACR Appropriateness Criteria® low back pain guideline; 2007 ACP/APS low back pain guideline; 2007 ACOM low back disorders guideline.