Lower Back Pain: Fear Of An MRI Scan
Patients who have chronic lower back pain will very often declare that they are absolutely sick of the pain and they are determined to alleviate it somehow. If the pain cannot be ‘pinpointed’ then an MRI scan may be used because the MRI scan will show up any problems with regard to the soft tissue in the spine and indeed the spine as a whole, which will ensure that the consultant can very accurately see exactly how the spine is.
In effect, this is the joy of the MRI scan, an X Ray does not reveal the level of detail that is required and so if there is a problem in the soft tissue, this will not be revealed by an X ray.
However, many people fear the process of having an MRI scan, simply because they are so worried about being ‘trapped’ in the scanner and they fear that they will have some kind of panic attack or that they will be unable to cope with it.
This is a genuine fear and not one that patients should feel ashamed about. We all fear something and it is simply different things that can affect different people. However, if you are very fearful, there are some things that you can do to help you to cope.
If you do find the prospect of an MRI very daunting then you should tell us. Often if patients tell us and we are able to talk it through, they find that their fears are greatly reduced. It is almost as if saying the words out loud relieves them of some of the burden of the fears.
Deep breathing really does work! It slows down the heart rate and then when the heart is not racing we feel calmer anyway! So the time in the scanner should be spent breathing deeply and as slowly as possible.
Sometimes people who are very fearful find that counting the breaths in and out, to a count of 8 or so, really helps to take their mind off the scan and instead simply focuses it on the actual breathing. It is almost as if breathing in and out, to a count of 8 actually makes the person forget about where they are and what is going on.
Patients may be fearful because they worry about being in the scanner and being told to be still but then having to move because the pain is so unbearable. This can often be alleviated by pain medication being administered.
Talk To Your Consultant
If you still find that you are exceptionally fearful of the process of an MRI then it may be appropriate to discuss this with your consultant with a view to being prescribed a very short lasting and relatively low dose of sedative, just to help you to feel less anxious about the whole experience.
However, it is important that you talk to someone and do not let fear prevent you from undergoing the MRI scan.