Kim is finally accustomed to the quiet in her suburban home. As an empty nester, she’s relishing movie nights with her partner (during which they get to pick the movie, not their kids); weekend hikes and coffee dates with her girlfriends; and testing new recipes in the kitchen. Recently, though, a persistent ache in her back has worsened and become harder to ignore. Sometimes, it spreads into a tingling feeling in her fingers. The over-the-counter medications she typically relies on are no longer easing the pain.
She used to ignore it. There were too many other things—too many other people—to care for. But she can’t avoid it any longer: The pain is starting to impact her quality of life. The 54-year-old sometimes has to take a break and sit down while making dinner. Her back stings when she sits and reads for too long. She’s starting to worry she won’t be strong enough to get her garden started when the seasons change—one of her most beloved pastimes—or make it through her daughter’s college graduation in a few months.
Pain is our body’s warning siren, informing us that something is wrong. We’re trained from a young age to ‘walk it off’ or let pain run its course. Which is fine when it comes to something innocuous like a small cut. It’s not such great advice when there’s something more serious happening in our bodies. Twenty percent of adults in the United States suffer from some form of chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the affliction is more prevalent among women and older adults. Even more people deal with less serious, but still life-affecting, bouts of pain.
The good news: You can take some control back when it comes to your body and health. Medical diagnostic imaging—think: CT and MRI scans—provides an extremely detailed internal view of your body’s structures. If done early enough, it can help doctors identify diseases and injuries before they become critical or impact your day-to-day life. Or it can guide treatment plans to help you live longer or more comfortably.
Touchstone Medical Imaging has 12 Front Range locations, including one near Kim’s suburban Denver home. They’re staffed with board-certified, sub-specialty radiologists who are trained to analyze every part of your body, from your brain to joints to liver. The outpatient sites are open on weekends or during pre- and post-work hours to make appointments convenient for everyone, and same-day appointments are available for certain exams like ultrasounds, X-rays, MRI, or CT scans.
What most appealed to Kim, though, is that Touchstone is in-network with more than 90 percent of insurance plans. Even better: The cost for these imaging services averages 40 to 60 percent less than at most hospitals. Kim’s health care deductible recently increased, and she was worried about the cost; it’s the main reason why she hadn’t sought answers earlier.
She booked an MRI at Touchstone and soon learned that she has degenerative disc disease, meaning the space between her bones and vertebrae had thinned (likely due to some combination of age, genetics and an active lifestyle). Not only did her physician receive the MRI results within hours of her appointment, but Kim was also provided with online access to her radiology report in a patient-friendly format. The interactive interface uses lay person language and anatomical diagrams, so she was able to easily understand what was happening in her body.
“Imaging is an extremely helpful way to hold someone accountable,” says Dr. Mark Levandovsky, an oncology, hematology, and internal medicine physician who founded Preventive Medicine and Cancer Care and refers patients to Touchstone. “Ninety percent of what happens to us is modifiable. It’s not what we’ve inherited from Mom and Dad. It’s within our control and power to really change.”
Thankfully, Kim’s prognosis was good: Her doctor prescribed joint injections and physical therapy to help manage the pain and return her to the life she was enjoying before aching and numbness became the norm. She’s getting outside when the sunshine rolls in, and she’s already planning her spring garden. She’s even booked the family’s flights for her daughter’s graduation. Perhaps most important, she now has a baseline for understanding her health, plus an action plan should any new pain crop up. This time, she won’t ignore it.