Sperling Medical Group

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4 Ways MRI Excels at Spine Imaging

Pain is one way in which a person’s body communicates that it’s in distress. Just like an SOS signal sent from a ship or airplane, it should neither be ignored nor guessed at.

About 80% of adults experience back pain at one time or another. When back pain is persistent and interferes with daily function despite over-the-counter remedies, it’s essential to obtain an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. Proper treatment, physical therapy and rest may be needed to avoid future complications and lifestyle hindrances.

Sometimes, the source of back pain is obvious, and an effective treatment plan can begin immediately. In many cases, however, identifying a simple cause for the pain may be elusive. The back is made up of a complex architecture that includes bones, nerves, muscles and connective tissues. Correct diagnosis of back pain may involve a series of steps, starting with a consultation with a doctor who takes a history of the problem and conducts an external exam.

The next step before invasive diagnostic injections may be noninvasive imaging of the spine and its related structures. Without causing further pain, imaging takes the guesswork out of diagnosis. If the problem is thought to be due to a fracture, tumor, or degenerative condition of the spinal column, x-rays may be ordered because they show bones very well. However, soft tissues (discs, nerve roots, etc.) do not show up on x-rays, so this type of imaging can’t give a complete picture of the problem.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers 4 advantages over other types of back imaging:

  1. Because it uses a natural magnetic field, it does not cause harm and has no side effects. Unlike x-rays and CT (computed tomography) scans, there is no exposure to radiation so there is no limit to the number of any necessary repeat imaging.
  2. According to radiologyinfo.com, MRI produces “detailed pictures of the spine and surrounding tissues that are clearer and more detailed than other imaging methods.”
  3. If a contrast agent is needed to highlight an aspect of the imaging, the agent used with MRI is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than the iodine-based contrast agents used for x-rays and CT scans.
  4. MRI can reveal small, early changes in the backbone and spinal cord that may be evidence of an infection or tumor beginning to form – a true benefit in terms of early intervention.

In short, “MRI is the best available modality to visualize spinal cord and nerves.”ii The Sperling Medical Group provides state of the art MRI for back and spinal conditions, including facet joint pain due to osteoarthritis of the spine, disease-related conditions, and injuries. Contact us for more information.


Facet Pain