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Do you need an MRI to diagnose spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. This is a complex spine condition to diagnose for two reasons: it shares the same symptoms as many other spine conditions and it can be caused by another spine condition. Unlike easily diagnosed spine conditions such as scoliosis, a physician would need an in-depth anatomical view of your spine to be able to diagnose spinal stenosis and determine the cause of your condition. Because of this, an MRI is often an essential step in diagnosing spinal stenosis.

What to expect during an MRI test

An MRI test for spinal stenosis is a painless test that allows physicians to see the anatomical structure of your spine. During the test, you will lie on your back on a table, enclosed by a large tube. Imagine if you were lying in the road in a tunnel, with openings for the tunnel just beyond your head and your feet. This is similar to the structure of the MRI bed and overhead machine.

You will be asked to remain as still as possible while powerful magnets in the tube send signals toward your body. These signals pass through the body and, in turn, are picked up by radio waves that are sent to a scanner and then to a computer for later review and analysis by physicians. This process will be loud, so you are encouraged to bring ear plugs. If you are concerned about claustrophobia during the MRI test, request to test at a facility with an “open” MRI designed for claustrophobic and larger patients. It is also important that you tell the MRI technician if you have any internal medical devices, such as pacemakers, plates or screws, as these can interfere with the screening and your safety.

MRI test for spinal stenosis diagnosis

Because spinal stenosis can be a result of several other spine conditions or the side effects of natural aging, it is imperative to review your MRI test with your physician before you begin a treatment plan for your pain. Knowing the cause of your spinal stenosis will allow your physician to create a tailored treatment plan.

A review of your MRI test may detect:

If an MRI picks up any of the conditions that indicate spinal stenosis, your physician will use this information in conjunction with a physical examination, mobility tests and possibly additional imaging tests to determine the next course of action. Spinal stenosis treatments may include rest, exercise, pain medication or corticosteroid injections. In some cases, surgery will be necessary to effectively address the condition.

At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive surgery to treat spinal stenosis. If you would like to learn more about our treatment options, contact us. Our team can provide you with a free MRI review* to determine if you could be a candidate for our procedures.

Learn more today

If you're living with spinal stenosis in the upper spine and searching for relief, reach out to USA Spine Care for help. Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to helping people develop the right care plan to  reach treatment goals and achieve lasting relief.

Contact us today to learn more. Call toll free 1-866-249-1627.

Spinal Stenosis "Quick Answers"

Depending on the region and severity Spinal stenosis feels like tingling, burning and/or weakness in the hands, arms, neck, lower back or legs. It may also feel like a radiating pain or shooting shock-like pain. Read more in the links below: Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Overview Defining Spinal Stenosis Researching Spinal Stenosis Learning About Back Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Pathophysiology
The types of spinal stenosis are region based and consist of cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) and lumbar or lower back. In addition, foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the foramen. Read more in the links below: Spinal Stenosis of the Neck Cervical Stenosis - Basic Facts Neck Stenosis Causes Neck Stenosis Treatment Central Canal Stenosis Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis in the Back
Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. This condition, most often located in the Lumbar spine, may be caused by degeneration of the spine, wear and tear, sports injury, & collapsing discs. Read more in the links below. What Causes Spinal Stenosis? Obesity May Lead to a Stenosis Diagnosis Age and its Role in the Development of Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis Causes Identifying Common Causes From Birth Defects to Getting Older Degenerative Conditions Car Accident Injuries
The symptoms of spinal stenosis include tingling or numbness in the extremities, pain and weakness in the neck, back and/or legs. In severe cases bladder, bowel dysfunction/continence. Learn more in the links below: What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis? Spinal Stenosis Symptoms Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis What Should I Do If I Think I Have Spinal Stenosis? Spinal Stenosis and Hand Pain Recognizing Spinal Stenosis Have You Been Diagnosed? About Your Diagnosis Diagnostic Process Helping Your Physician How a Diagnosis Is Made Arriving at a Diagnosis
Physician specialties that treat spinal stenosis include: Pain management & rehabilitation physicians, spine surgeons, orthopedic specialists & neurosurgeons. Read more about these specialties in the links below: Doctors Who Treat Spinal Stenosis Spinal Decompression Doctors
Patients can expect recovery to last 4-6 weeks in most cases (depending on the complexity of your condition). People who choose minimally invasive spine surgery recover faster and get back to work sooner than those who choose open back surgery. Read more in the links below: Recovery After a Procedure What to Expect Recovery Times

  • Problems from anesthesia.
  • A deep infection in the surgical wound.
  • A skin infection.
  • Blood clots.
  • Nerve injury, including weakness, numbness, or paralysis.
  • Tears in the fibrous tissue that covers the spinal cord and the nerve near the spinal cord. These tears may require more surgery.
  • Trouble passing urine, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Long-term (chronic) pain, which happens after surgery in some cases.
  • The chance that the surgery won't relieve your symptoms. And even if you get better with surgery, there is a chance that you may get new symptoms in the future.
  • Death from problems caused by surgery, but this is rare.

Read more in the links below: Overview of Risk Factors Most Common Risk Factors Obesity & Spinal Stenosis Spinal Stenosis & Arthritis Treating Elderly Patients

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