Obtaining an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is one of the first steps in correctly diagnosing a herniated disc in your spine. Unlike a common X-ray, which can only capture pictures of bone structure, an MRI uses a magnetic field and a computer to produce and record detailed images of the inner workings of the body, including the organs, muscles and soft tissue. This technology is also capable of producing two-dimensional (“cross section”) views of the body, which greatly help physicians in identifying a herniated disc. MRI scans are still based on relatively new technology, but they have become absolutely integral in correctly diagnosing a variety of neck and back issues, such as spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, bone spurs and herniated discs.
An MRI scan has a number of distinct advantages that greatly benefit a herniated disc patient. The benefits of an MRI include:
- It’s unobtrusive
- It’s painless and free of radiation
- An MRI can focus on a particular part of the body, such as zeroing in on a problem area
- The scan is extremely accurate
Herniated disc diagnosis
If a patient believes he or she is experiencing a herniated disc in the neck or back, the first step is to visit a physician. Typically, the physician will first ask the patient about his or her symptoms, obtain the patient’s medical background and perform a physical examination. From there, an MRI often is necessary to absolutely confirm the herniated disc diagnosis, as well as to locate the specific location of the problem. An MRI test involves the patient being placed in an MRI machine for a body scan. The machine is a tube-like structure, and typically, a patient will have to remain enclosed in the MRI machine for up to an hour while the machine does its work.
Once the test is complete, the MRI images will illustrate the condition of not only any herniated disc, but also the surrounding spinal structures. This allows physicians to better understand the origin of neck or back pain and develop a more individualized treatment plan. In addition, the MRI scan sometimes can help physicians determine the cause of a herniated disc, be it lingering injury, degenerative disc disease or something less serious.
While treatment for a herniated disc can often be as simple as bed rest and medication, occasionally an MRI indicates that a surgical option must be considered. If this is the case, contact the staff at Laser Spine Institute for a review of your MRI or CT scan and to learn more about the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures available to help alleviate your pain.