Do you need an MRI to diagnose spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. This is a complex spine condition to diagnose for two reasons: it shares the same symptoms as many other spine conditions and it can be caused by another spine condition. Unlike easily diagnosed spine conditions such as scoliosis, a physician would need an in-depth anatomical view of your spine to be able to diagnose spinal stenosis and determine the cause of your condition. Because of this, an MRI is often an essential step in diagnosing spinal stenosis.

What to expect during an MRI test

An MRI test for spinal stenosis is a painless test that allows physicians to see the anatomical structure of your spine. During the test, you will lie on your back on a table, enclosed by a large tube. Imagine if you were lying in the road in a tunnel, with openings for the tunnel just beyond your head and your feet. This is similar to the structure of the MRI bed and overhead machine.

You will be asked to remain as still as possible while powerful magnets in the tube send signals toward your body. These signals pass through the body and, in turn, are picked up by radio waves that are sent to a scanner and then to a computer for later review and analysis by physicians. This process will be loud, so you are encouraged to bring ear plugs. If you are concerned about claustrophobia during the MRI test, request to test at a facility with an “open” MRI designed for claustrophobic and larger patients. It is also important that you tell the MRI technician if you have any internal medical devices, such as pacemakers, plates or screws, as these can interfere with the screening and your safety.

MRI test for spinal stenosis diagnosis

Because spinal stenosis can be a result of several other spine conditions or the side effects of natural aging, it is imperative to review your MRI test with your physician before you begin a treatment plan for your pain. Knowing the cause of your spinal stenosis will allow your physician to create a tailored treatment plan.

A review of your MRI test may detect:

If an MRI picks up any of the conditions that indicate spinal stenosis, your physician will use this information in conjunction with a physical examination, mobility tests and possibly additional imaging tests to determine the next course of action. Spinal stenosis treatments may include rest, exercise, pain medication or corticosteroid injections. In some cases, surgery will be necessary to effectively address the condition.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive surgery to treat spinal stenosis. If you would like to learn more about our treatment options, contact us. Our team can provide you with a free MRI review* to determine if you could be a candidate for our procedures.

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