A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a highly detailed image that can show the soft tissues in your body. It uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to generate images of specific organs, soft tissue, and bones without using radiation.
An MRI machine uses a magnetic field to align atoms in the body, which then return to their normal position when the magnetic field is removed. The signal from this change can be used to make images of your internal organs and tissues that are amazingly clear and detailed.
As such, MRI scans can be used to diagnose many internal problems, but can they spot nerve damage? Read on to find out.
Damaged and Pinched Nerves
A damaged or pinched nerve is a problem often caused by a specific injury, such as a fall or car accident. It can also be caused by repetitive use of the same muscles over time.
A damaged or pinched nerve will have symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or pain. If you feel these symptoms in your arms or legs, see your doctor right away because this could be a sign of something serious like multiple sclerosis.
The MRI scan can show the soft tissue structures in your body and if there is damage to the spinal nerve. It may also detect metal fragments in the spine that are causing pressure on a nerve, as well as a herniated disc, where part of an intervertebral disc has broken through its outer covering.
Lumbar Pinched Nerve
A lumbar pinched nerve occurs when a nerve root becomes trapped between two vertebrae in the spine. This can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs. The condition may be caused by spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses the nerves as they exit the spine. Sciatica is another condition that can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs due to pressure on a lumbar pinched nerve.
Cervical Pinched Nerve
A cervical pinched nerve occurs when one of your cervical nerves becomes trapped or compressed at the base of your neck (cervical spine). The condition causes pain along the side of your neck or shoulder blade (scapula), weakness in your arms or hands, and sometimes loss of sensation or tingling on one side of your face or head. Cervical radiculopathy (or “pinched nerve”) can also cause severe pain down one side of your body and muscle twitching or spasms throughout your body.
An MRI can also show other nerve injuries, such as a thoracic pinched nerve, and help with the neurological examination of nearby structures.
MRIs for Diagnosing Nerve Pain
Nerve pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. It can be caused by several things, including nerve damage and other health issues.
If you’ve been diagnosed with nerve pain, your doctor will likely recommend an MRI to determine what’s causing the problem.
An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create an image of the inside of your body. It’s safe for most people and can help doctors diagnose various conditions, from cancer to spinal stenosis.
If you have nerve pain in one or more limbs, your doctor may suggest an MRI scan or another imaging technique, such as CT scans or ultrasounds, to see if a tumor is the cause of your symptoms. The results of these tests can show whether any nearby nerves have been damaged by pressure from an enlarged gland along their path through bone or tissue.
MRI Scans Help Diagnose Many Different Medical Conditions
Doctors use MRI scans to help diagnose and treat many different medical conditions. They can be used for everything from nerve damage to cancer, but they are instrumental in helping determine the cause of pain. If you’re experiencing unexplained pain, an MRI scan may be able to help doctors pinpoint the source of your discomfort.
Healthcare professionals also use MRI scans as part of their workup before surgery or other procedures that require anesthesia.
What to Expect at Your MRI
As you prepare for your MRI, there may be some things you should know. Most importantly, you must remove any jewelry or other metal objects from your body. This includes necklaces, bracelets, watches, and other accessories containing metal parts. You will also be asked to wear a gown during the procedure so that nothing else interferes with the scan.
Finally, once you’re in position for the scan itself—which involves lying on a table that slides into the scanner—you must remain still for several minutes while it takes place. This means no talking or moving around!
Limitations of MRI
While an MRI scan can be helpful for diagnosis, your doctor will likely order additional testing to determine nerve damage.
Your doctor may recommend additional testing to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of nerve damage or spinal cord issues. MRI is one of the best imaging tests for revealing soft tissue damage, but it can’t show nerve compression or other spinal cord issues.
Nerve conduction studies measure how fast an impulse travels from the brain to muscles and sensory organs in your body. This test can help diagnose problems with nerves that control movement, touch, and pain sensation.
Contact Dr. Daniel Possley for Professional Spine Services
Nerves don’t have a lot of space between them and other structures in your body, so they can get pinched or compressed relatively easily. Depending on the affected nerves, you will likely experience pain, numbness, or weakness in various body parts.
MRI scans use radio waves to produce images of soft tissue like muscles and ligaments, in addition to bones. Because of this, it’s possible for an MRI to show nerve damage as well as other issues that might be causing pain in your body.
That said, if you have concerns about a diagnosis or the treatment plan for your orthopedic problem, it’s a good idea to get an orthopedic second opinion from Dr. Daniel Possley.
Dr. Possley will look at your case and offer his thoughts on what is likely causing your pain and your best course of action moving forward.
Call the office directly at (303) 673-1390 to book an appointment.