If you have undergone an MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of your spine, you may have received a report with several medical terms that can be difficult to understand. In this article, we will explain the most common terms and their implications for your health.
Importance of MRI Reports in Diagnosing Back Pain
It's important to note that not everything described in an MRI report is necessarily considered an illness. For instance, disc bulges or protrusions can be found in many people without any symptoms of back pain, and the rate of intervertebral disc alterations increases with age, even in asymptomatic individuals. As a result, some disc degenerations can be considered normal during the aging process.
Degenerative Changes of the Spine: What's Normal and What's Not
When your doctor has referred you for an MRI scan, the aim is to find a specific reason for your back pain. However, in about 90% of cases, back pain is non-specific, meaning there is no specific finding in the MRI scan that can be linked to the pain. In such cases, conservative treatment is likely to improve your condition. Degenerative changes of the lumbar spine are common and increase with age, but are not considered a specific reason for back pain as they can also be found in asymptomatic individuals.
It's important to note that no imaging technique (radiograph, CT, MRI, etc.) is perfect, and there is no "pain scan". While MRI scans can provide detailed information on the spine, they may also reveal alterations that are not relevant to your health and may cause unnecessary worry. Moreover, MRI scans are taken when lying down, which is a comfortable position for most people. As such, they may not be reliable for revealing abnormal findings related to your posture or spinal alignment, which are best evaluated clinically.
Limitations of MRI Scans for Evaluating Posture and Alignment
If you have had an MRI scan and are struggling to understand the findings in your report, it's best to speak to your treating doctor, who can explain whether these findings are relevant to your health.
In the list below, we explain common terms you might encounter in your MRI report to help you get a better understanding of your spinal health.