MRI test to find a bulging disc

If your physician suspects you might have a bulging disc, he or she may recommend that you have an MRI test in order to confirm your diagnosis.

An MRI test for a bulging disc will allow your doctor to view your spine and determine not only if a bulging disc is responsible for your pain, but in some cases it could help find out what caused the bulging disc to develop. Often times, however, a bulging disc develops with the natural aging process of the spine — a cause of a bulging disc that does not always appear on an MRI test.

What is an MRI?

An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging test, offers visual confirmation of the bulging disc. During this procedure, the MRI machine takes a detailed image of any part of the body, including the vertebrae, or bones, that make up the spinal column and the spinal discs in between the vertebrae.

If a disc is “bulging,” it will have a distinct protrusion popping out of its normal space in between vertebrae. When a disc bulges out like this, it can press on a nearby nerve, resulting in pain, tingling, numbness and other symptoms.

The MRI can also show a spinal nerve that has become inflamed or irritated by a bulging disc that is pressing, or pinching, the nerve root.

Preparing for a bulging disc MRI test

An MRI is an important step of bulging disc diagnosis. Before you have an MRI, it is important to know what is involved during this procedure:

  • You will lie on your back on a table, which will be slowly maneuvered into a large imaging tube. If you are claustrophobic or anxious, a physician may recommend an anti-anxiety medication.
  • Powerful magnets will send invisible signals into your body.
  • Magnetic signals are then picked up by radio waves. You may hear a tapping or thumping sound.
  • Radio waves send imaging information to a scanner, which creates an image.
  • Pacemakers, plates or other hardware in your body for other medical conditions can interfere with the imaging process and a technician will ask if you have any internal medical devices before your MRI.

Some MRIs require that you drink a contrasting material, such as gadolinium, to help show more detail on the images. Your physician will instruct well beforehand if your test requires this.

After a bulging disc MRI

If your physician has detected a bulging disc and has recommended spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our procedures offer lower risks and shorter recovery times,^ comparatively.

Let us provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.

Browse Related Resources