Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic technique that allows doctors to evaluate injuries to soft tissues and to locate evidence of serious illnesses, such as tumors and vascular irregularities. Physicians also use MRI to monitor patients with degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The diagnostic procedures can be performed at facilities like Southwest Diagnostic Centers of Colorado Springs. MRI scans require referrals from doctors, although the patient may be able to choose which center he or she will go to.
An example of a problem for which a doctor may order MRI is back pain that is intermittent but debilitating when it occurs. This is often a sign of a herniated disc, but the doctor wants to be certain. An MRI in this case might be ordered by a medical or osteopathic doctor, or a chiropractor. By ruling out other possibilities such as a hairline compression fracture in the vertebrae, the practitioner is better able to offer appropriate treatment.
X-Rays vs. MRI
The doctor is more likely to suspect a fracture if pain developed after the patient fell, or was in a vehicle or bicycle accident. Doctors who believe the patient has a fracture will probably order X-rays instead of MRI, as this radiography is better for viewing bone injuries.
About Ruptured Discs
A ruptured disc, in contrast, is a more common ailment. It happens relatively frequently as people age, with their spine developing a certain amount of arthritis or degenerative disc disease. A herniated disc occurs when the gel-filled cushioning component of the spine slips out from its place between vertebral bones. It typically happens when the person strains the back in some way, even by a small amount. For instance, it might happen when someone at risk of a ruptured disc bends over and lifts a jug of water from a bottom grocery store shelf.
Herniated discs usually resolve on their own, but many individuals feel some relief after chiropractic or massage sessions. With the knowledge of a precise diagnosis, they can decide what type of treatment to pursue. MRI also helps doctors determine when it may be appropriate to recommend surgery for patients with chronic disc issues.