The vertebrae form a column of bony segments in the back. This column houses and protects the delicate spinal cord, which is the nerve center of the body. Each vertebra is separated by a cartilaginous piece of padding called an intervertebral disc. Many spine problems, such as herniated discs, bulging discs, or stenosis, are a result of degenerating discs.
When you see your physician about vertebrae pain, he or she will try to diagnose which area of the vertebrae column is affected: the cervical (upper), thoracic (middle), or lumbar (lower) region. Although a physical exam may be able to shed some light on the location of vertebrae injury, medical imaging will most likely be necessary to pinpoint which intervertebral discs need treatment.
A common diagnostic resource is an MRI, which produces a detailed image of your body’s soft tissues using a high-density magnetic field. When your doctor conducts an MRI of your vertebrae column, you can expect the following:
- You will lie flat on a table and you will be inserted into the MRI machine, which houses an enormous magnet that runs lengthwise through the machine.
- You will be asked to wear earplugs because the MRI machine can be loud. A head coil will also be placed around your head for the duration of the exam—the head coil is in charge of taking the MRI pictures.
- You will be instructed to stay extremely still. Energy in the form of radio waves is spread over your body so that the MRI scanner can identify the tissues of your body and create a 2-D or 3-D representation. The MRI does not use ionizing radiation, which is what is found in traditional x-rays and CT scans of your spine vertebrae.
- There should be absolutely no pain during an MRI scan. If you feel unexpected discomfort or anxiety, press the call button immediately. The scan of your vertebrae column will take anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes.
Treatment at LSI
If your MRI leads your doctor to diagnose you with a condition of the vertebrae column and you are considering spine surgery to treat the problem, the experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) would like to give you more information about our minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures, which are performed on an outpatient basis. Contact us today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan, or for more information about how we can help you rediscover a life without pain.