Obtaining a MRI – which stands for 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 a two-dimensional (“cross section”) view of tissue, which greatly helps doctors in identifying a herniated disc. MRI scans are still a 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 back discs.
Furthermore, an MRI scan has a number of distinct advantages that greatly benefit the patient:
- It’s painless and free of radiation
- An MRI can focus on a particular part of the body, zeroing in on a problem area
- It’s unobtrusive
- The scan is extremely accurate
Herniated Disc Diagnosis
In the event that a patient believes he or she is experiencing a herniated disc in their back or neck, the first step is to visit a physician. Typically, the physician will first 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 locate the specific location of the problem. This 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.
The resulting images will illustrate the condition of not only the damaged disc, but also the surrounding spinal structure. This allows doctors to better understand the origin of the pain and develop a more individualized treatment plan. In addition, the MRI scan sometimes can help doctors determine the cause of the herniated disc, be it lingering injury, degenerative disc disease, or something less serious.
While treatment for herniated discs 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 award-winning staff at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) for a free review of your MRI or CT scan and learn more about the minimally-invasive, outpatient procedures available to help alleviate your pain.