Diagnostic Tools for Lower Back Pain: An MRI Scan

Diagnostic Tools for Lower Back Pain: An MRI Scan


Patients who are experiencing lower back pain often find that it can be a very frustrating experience, as there is no definitive, single problem that results in lower back pain, but there are a number of conditions and sometimes the possible causes of lower back pain have to be carefully investigated and a diagnosis can be reached through a process of elimination.


But that is where an MRI scan can help, because it provides your pain consultant with a very accurate and in depth view of the spine, so that a clinical diagnosis can be reached quickly and appropriate treatments can be administered.


What Is An MRI Scan?


An MRI scan is a way in which magnetic resonance imaging can be used to capture images of the spine. The beauty of the MRI scan is twofold, since first it only uses magnetic waves to take the images instead of the radiation that is used in X rays. It also enables the pain consultant to almost ‘slice’ through the entire spine and capture images that show the spine in terms of each layer of the spine. These cross-sectional views really help present a very comprehensive view of the spine, in a way which other diagnostic tools simply cannot. 


The scanner takes a great deal of images which can also clearly show not just the vertebrae within the spine, but each nerve and disc as well. These nerves, discs and soft tissue simply cannot be seen using other equipment or, in the case of X-rays, some special dyes have to be used and the results are simply not as comprehensive.


The Scan Itself


People are sometimes wary of undergoing an MRI scan because they believe that the scan will be painful or that they may experience feelings of claustrophobia or feeling ‘trapped’ within the scanner. These fears are very common but actually patients need have no worry about the process. Patients will be made to feel at ease about the scan and encouraged to feel relaxed, with skilled professionals ensuring that patients are kept fully informed as to what is going to happen and how long it will take etc.


What The Scan May Show


Any MRI scan of a person who is aged over 40 or 45 may well show that there are a number of age related problems in the spine. Some of these will be completely unrelated to the lower back pain and are simply signs of wear and tear on the back, that present no problems and may well be ignored by your pain consultant.


This is because there spine is particularly prone to experiencing wear and tear and the MRI scan is so completely accurate and in-depth, that it shows every tiny abnormality within the back! Consequently the MRI scan needs to be examined in depth by a spine specialist, to ensure that the irrelevant ‘wear and tear’ damage can be ignored and the root cause of the lower back pain identified and treated. Patients should not worry if wear and tear to discs is identified, since this is something that will show up in most MRI scans of people who are middle aged or approaching middle age: it does not mean that there is necessarily anything to worry about.





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