Back Pain: Diagnosis and Imaging
Back Pain: X-ray and CT Scan
Back Pain: MRI Scan

What is an MRI Scan?

We sometimes recommend that patients visiting our back pain treatment center in Chester, get an MRI scan. An MRI scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a diagnostic test that helps chiropractors assess a patient’s spine in order to identify the cause of their back pain. MRI scans were developed in the 1980s. They have improved and modified our ability to see abnormalities in the spinal structures and to find out the cause of the backache.

Chiropractors typically already have an idea what they are expecting to see in an MRI scan before it is performed as this study is usually used for pre-surgical planning.

An MRI scan may be able to provide a detailed assessment of the anatomy of the spine; however, it cannot recognize painful and non-painful spinal structures. There are, in fact, instances where an MRI scan shows numerous anatomical problems even when the patient does not have back problem. On the other hand, an MRI scan can also show a normal spinal structure despite the patient’s symptoms. This shows that an MRI scan finding must be consistent with the patient’s symptoms and physical examination to get an accurate diagnosis.

What is the Importance of an MRI Scan?

An MRI scan is ordered when the chiropractor is looking for certain information about the patient’s symptoms. Some information gathered from MRI scan results are the following:

  • Alignment of the spine
  • Any type of spinal abnormalities that might be the cause of the backache.
  • Changes in the spine after surgery – Postoperative infection or scarring can be seen through MRI scanning, as well as disc herniation
MRI Scan Lumbar Disc Herniation
GSCC at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Disc height
  • Disc hydration
  • Intervertebral disc appearance – MRI scans can identify whether or not the disc is normal, herniated, bulging, degenerated, or dehydrated
  • Size of the spinal canal – Whether or not the spinal canal size is enough to accommodate the spinal cord and nerves
  • Spinal cord appearance
  • The condition of the nerves – Whether they are compressed or inflamed
  • Vertebral body configuration

Usually, the chiropractor has an idea on what to expect on the MRI scan result already, based on the medical history and physical exam of the patient. If the patient’s symptoms are consistent with the MRI scan result, the diagnostic study can be beneficial for treatment planning.

In most cases, chiropractic manipulation can resolve back pain within two to twelve weeks of treatment. Thus, an MRI scan is not ordered immediately at the initial onset of the symptoms. It is only necessary when chiropractic treatment does not appear to resolve the pain or when the symptoms call for a more aggressive treatment such as surgery or injections.  We are always ready to discuss whether you need a scan at our back pain treatment center in Chester.

Back Pain: Diagnosis and Imaging
Back Pain: X-ray and CT Scan
Back Pain: MRI Scan

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