Disc/Stenosis/Radiculopathy Success Secret #3: MRI Is A Great Diagnostic Tool…But It Won’t Tell The Whole Story.
MRI is the gold standard for evaluating soft tissues, especially the intervertebral discs. However, an often-overlooked factor has to be considered when reading MRIs: In most cases individuals with discogenic (caused by discs) low back pain will find that lying down gives them the most relief, and sitting, getting up from sitting and standing are most uncomfortable. The main reason for this is that lying down tends to place the least amount of force on the discs.
Now, let’s say you have this scenario and get an MRI but it only shows minimal bulging and something called annular tears. Annular tears are small tears in the outer cartilage ring of the disc that can be potential weak areas where the gel-like center of the disc can push out and consequently press on nerves, causing excruciating pain. However, you are not in a gravitational position on the MRI table, you are in a position that gives you relief…this can result in missing what your disc looks like when it hurts…you know, when you are sitting, getting up from sitting or standing.
An important tool to use in the evaluation and diagnosis of spinal disc bulges and herniations, spinal stenosis and radiculopathy is the physical examination. A good neurological, orthopedic and spinal examination can tell a skilled doctor exactly what the problem is and where the root of the symptoms is. This is extremely important so that the doctor can formulate an appropriate, effective treatment plan.
So, even if your MRI shows minimal disc or spine changes while you have severe, radiating pain and/or other neurological symptoms, that MRI may not be telling the whole story. The MRI is a good tool, but all findings must be taken into account together to understand what is really going on.
Give Dr. Kevala a call today to schedule your case review. (805) 650-0495