What an MRI Might Tell Us About Our Back Pain

X-Ray images can offer us a lot of information about our back pain or back problem. X-Rays may reveal degenerative disc disease, osteoporosis, vertebra fractures, and abnormal curvatures. Though X-rays are only two dimensional images trying to represent what's going on in a 3-dimensional body, we can try to use X-rays to simulate a 3D profile by taking pictures of the structures from multiple views and multiple angles. X-rays take very good pictures of the bones of the body, and some of the soft tissues. One problem with X-rays are when we want to look at structures that are underneath another structure with a lot of density. Dense structures such as bones and muscle often obscure other structures on the film, such as organs and soft tissues that have less density. The MRI is able to solve some of the limitations of the X-ray by taking multiple cross-sectional views of parts of the body, which provides us with a more representative view of what's going on in the joints and soft tissues of the spine and body.

An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner involves a powerful magnetic field to align some of the atomic nuclei of the body, to get a high definition view of the structures being imaged. The MRI offers a better contrast between the soft tissues of the body, enabling doctors to see more subtle forms of soft tissue damage than would be available in other types of imaging studies. The consensus among most diagnosticians is that the MRI is safer than X-Ray and CT because it does not involve ionization radiation.

Here are some things that an MRI might tell us about our back pain. Here are some diagnoses that you might see on an MRI report.

Anterolisthesis: Anterolisthesis refers to a movement of the vertebral bodies forward and out of its normal alignment.

Degenerative Disc Disease: Degenerative disc disease is not typically associated with an injury or systemic disease like rheumatoid arthritis. This disease includes a shrinking of the size of the intervertebral discs or a tear in the disc wall, causing its contents to become expelled outwards.

Degenerative Disease of the Facet Joints is a progressive deterioration of the physical characteristics of the facet joint. This condition is also commonly associated with the aging process.

Facet Arthropathy: Facet arthropathy typically occurs when the smooth cartilage between the facet which connect the vertebrae to one another wears out, causing arthritis and instability of the spine.

An Osteophyte is a body outgrowth from the vertebral body. Osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, typically develop where there is the most pressure, such as the faces of the vertebral bodies that meet with the discs. Osteophytes may occur due to degenerative disc disease or from an old injury.

Retrolisthesis: refers to movement of the vertebral body backward and out of normal alignment.

Spinal Stenosis: indicates a narrowing of the spinal canal, which houses the meninges as well as the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis may occur due to arthritis changes to the vertebral bones, constricting the size of the vertebral foramen, through which the spinal canal travels.

Spondylosis: Do you remember going to the doctor for some minor infectious disease, and the doctor telling you that you probably have a virus, after several other tests came up negative. That's basically what spondylosis is. Spondylosis is a nonspecific term that refers to any degenerative lesion of the spine, similar to arthritis.