MRI for Back Pain: What to Expect
When the Heilman Center pain specialists order an MRI scan for back pain, it’s a chance to pinpoint the root cause of your pain. It’s also a chance for us to design a personalized treatment plan.
When do doctors and pain specialists choose MRI vs. X-ray for back pain? Let’s take a look at how the technology works, what it helps doctors to see, and what you can expect the day of your MRI.
MRI: What Is It?
If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can wear your own clothes, provided they are metal-free, or you can wear one of our gowns.
Before doctors had the ability to take images of the structures inside your body, they had to make an educated guess as to what caused patients to have back pain. X-rays enabled doctors to see bones and dense structures, like tumors, but they couldn’t see soft tissues because the X-ray radiation passed through them.
Tools like CT scans could picture internal structures in greater detail, but because CT scans utilize X-rays, they exposed the body to radiation. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, gives doctors tools to see soft tissues and other body structures in greater detail without the use of radiation. Your doctor can see your spinal vertebrae with an X-ray; with an MRI, they see disc tissue in detail. Thanks to the high-resolution images provided by MRI, we have a noninvasive way of seeing what is happening when our patients experience pain.
Not every pain experience requires patients to get an MRI. Sometimes, a pain specialist can provide effective treatment without requiring a scan, depending on your current health and the severity of your symptoms. When pain is ongoing or severe, or when it’s accompanied by other concerning symptoms, we may recommend an MRI to learn more about what’s going on beneath the surface.