MRI Scan of Neck & Back

What Is An MRI Scan?

mri neck and backAn MRI scan is a test to look into the neck & back, which doesn’t use any radiation. Instead of radiation, MRI’s use magnetic & radio waves, creating computer generated pictures. The pictures or images produced by an MRI can show different layers of the spine and are able to show problems with soft tissues, like muscles, ligaments, spinal discs and nerves. If you are scheduled for MRI scanning, you should know that it is the most common test for looking into the spine other than a standard x-ray.

What Does An MRI Scan Show?

An MRI can show clear details of the spine. It provides pictures that show the condition of discs, ligaments, muscles and bones in much greater detail than an x-ray. It can show early signs of disc degeneration by focusing onthe central part of the disc called the nucleus. Observing loss of water in the nucleus is an early sign of disc degeneration. It can also show the conditions of the joints, which are frequently involved in facet joint arthritis. By looking into the spine, an MRI scan can show areas where the spinal canal has become narrowed, a condition called spinal stenosis. It can also show if there is a herniated disc in the neck or back, and can tell how big it is and if it is pressing on the nerve or parts of the spinal cord.

What Does An MRI Scan Not Show?

It shows most structures very well, however, an x-ray can show bone in finer detail and, many doctors that need to look at destrutction of bone from tumors or infection and fractures will choose a CT Scan.

How Is An MRI Scan Done?

During the scan, you will lie down on a table that will slide into the main machne that resembles a round tunnel. The technician will make sure you are comfortable by using pillows and, often you can listen to music. While the scan is being done, many pictures are taken. During the process, the technician carefully monitors everything and can communicate with you. Often, you will be given a hand held button to press if you experience any problems. The MRI scanner does not provide a lot of room, so some people may get a bit claustrophobic. If this is the case, a mild sedative may be given to ease the anxiety. Open MRI scan machines minimize this with a more open feel.

How Long Does An MRI Scan Take?

It usually takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Are MRI’s Noisy?

Yes, but this depends on the machine. Some are more noisy than others. It can be a humming and banging type of sound. Headphones with music are usually provided for the noisier machines, while background music is enough for the quiter ones. The noise is just when the scanning is being done. In between scans, it is quiet. The technician may say, “OK, This scan will take 10 minutes”, as the settings are prepared.

Contraindications To MRI Scanning

Although there is no problems from the magnetic waves regarding exposure, you should not have an MRI if there are any metal objects in your body. Mostly from past surgeries, these metal objects can move or come loose in the magnetic field during the scan. If you are not sure, this needs to be addressed. Sometimes, x-rays can be taken if there is a suspicion of metal in the body. The facility will have a list of objects that you need to verify you do not have, even permanent eyeliner. You should not wear any jewlery or clothes with metal clips, zippers or buttons. Wearing a natural fiber sweatsuit is a good idea.

How Much Is An MRI Scan?

The costs vary and can be anywhere from 1 to 3 thousand dollars, in general. The variables are many, since insurance coverage also varies as well as special MRI’s done with contrast or other special parameters. The technician fee is associated with the test itself, and there is also a professional fee for a radiologist to read the scans and write a report. There may be 2 separate costs or it may be included in one price depending on the facility.

Modic Changes & Chronic Back Pain

Are you suffering from chronic back pain? You May Have Modic Changes In Your Spine.

If you have tried various treatments without relief, you may suffer from a finding in certain individuals with back pain called Modic changes in the bones of the lumbar spine. A new approach may provide relief, where other typical methods fail.

modic changes

About 6 percent of individuals have chronic back pain related to these Modic changes. Since these changes cannot be seen on standard x-rays, many do not get properly diagnosed. MRI scanning is necessary to determine if you have modic changes, however, since treating these changes is relatively new, many radiologists consider them “normal”. Recent scientific studies indicate they are not normal and contribute to significant pain and are a rapid type of degeneration related to disc herniations and possibly bacterial infection.

Modic changes

Modic change is a pathological condition effecting the structure of spinal bones. In 1988, Dr. Michael Modic discovered these changes by identifying and describing their characteristics on MRI scans. By looking at samples of bone, Dr. Modic was able to establish 3 different types of modic changes.

Normal bone is sometimes called Modic type 0 – no modic changes. A normal spinal bone is not solid inside, it has thin threads that form a type of scaffolding for bone marrow that forms blood cells.

Modic change: Type 1

In Type 1 Modic change, the scaffolding structure is disrupted and the threads are fractured, weakening and deforming the structure inside the bone. When this occurs, the normal bone marrow, which is healthy and red, is instead changed to a blister-like clear fluid. This process allows a very sensitive type of nerve fibers to form inside the bone that cause pain.

Modic change: Type 2

With Modic change Type 2, these broken threads of bone are also present and the scaffolding structure in the bone remains deformed, but rather than the clear fluid that has replaced red marrow in Type 1, Type 2 consists of fat. This yellow fat is much the same as the fat we complain about on our belly and hips.

Modic change: Type 3

Modic change Type 3 is not very common and is the rarest of the modic types. This type consists of scar tissue that has formed in the diseased bone.

Modic Changes & Back Pain

If you have been suffering from back pain with little or no results from different traditional therapies, it is important to know if you are suffering from modic changes. Scientific studies on Modic changes clearly indicates a relationship between Moidc changes and back pain, especially Type 1.

Modic changes produce more pain than typical muscular back pain that does not have the bone changes associated with Modic changes. Most Modic changes produce back pain that is constant. The pain may be more or less depending on the time of day and the amount of physical activity, however, it never really goes away, it’s always there. Many suffer back pain that can wake them up at night when turning in bed.

Do I have Modic Changes?

To determine if you have Modic changes, a careful history, physical exam and MRI must be done by a qualified health care professional. However, there is a questionnaire that can help determine if you might suffer back pain from modic changes, based on the symptoms.

If you note a positive response to 3 or more of these, you might have Modic changes:

1) Low back pain at night. 2) Pain waking you up at night when turning over. 3) Pain worse in morning, easing during the day, gets worse in afternoon and at night. 4) Back pain deep in the back. 5) Sometimes pain going into the leg(s). 6) Back pain worse or not changed when exercising or doing physical activities. 7) X-rays that have shown disc degeneration. 8) Back pain constant for most of the day. 8) Treatments used to help back pain, but do not provide relief.

Treatment For Modic Changes
modic changes treatment

Modic changes are often caused by bacteria entering the disc through a disc herniation, therefore, treatment consists of antibiotics taken for 100 days to destroy the bacteria that secrete a substance which damages the bones.

Antibiotics are not meant to be taken lightly, if there are clear indications that you are suffering back pain from this condition, contraindications to taking strong antibiotics for a long period must be considered. The treatment with antibiotics lasts for 100 days, but the effects may not be seen for a period or weeks or months, because the antibiotics need a long time to get into the disc. Full recovery may take a year, so patience and understanding about the condition is necessary. Therefore, finding someone who is certified or very knowledgeable about Modic Antibiotic Spinal Therapy and can educate and answer questions regarding modic changes and antibiotics is a good idea to achieve best results.

This treatment is well accepted in Europe, however, here in the States, it is not so accepted. As more studies are done and results from clinics in Europe are favorable, this status in the U.S. should change. Knowledgeable doctors here in the States are implementing the protocol with select patients and doctors who have successfully completed the certification course from the Author of the original studies, like Dr. Steve, can help with advice by corresponding with individuals and doctors. Additionally, there is a significant amount of information regarding Modic changes and antibiotic therapy for individuals and health care professionals at NeckSolutions.

In Europe, they are also using a bio-stimulating laser for therapy to assist the healing of bone threads that have become fractured, decreasing inflammation so prevalent in Modic Type 1 changes and to provide pain relief while waiting for the effects of the antibiotics.

Not everyone gets better. Some cannot take the antibiotics and some do not respond as the Modic changes may be more structural in nature, however, new methods are being studied and the future is promising. For some, the antibiotic treatment helps to eliminate the cause of Modic changes, greatly improving the quality of life. Some patients are able to get back to work and back to life again.

Treating Neck Pain

Neck Pain Treatment

nurse having a neck painNeck pain is a common encounter for many individuals and can affect the ability to enjoy everyday activities. There are some simple neck pain treatment measures you can take to help with relief, restoring normal function as well as decreasing the chances of having neck pain in the future.

Health care professionals place an emphasis on adjustments to restore normal motion and relieve joint and nerve pressure, stretching as well as muscle strengthening exercises, postural modification, medications and therapies directed towards relaxation. This provides a long-term neck pain treatment program that is often effective for most individuals. However, when you first experience neck pain, here are some ways to help:

First and foremost, you should be aware of when you need to see a doctor for neck pain.

Resting. Most studies indicate that remaining active is best. Resting is usually reserved for significant injuries, like herniated discs or fractures. But, resting can help initially if there is inflammation, even from a simple strain, to give it a chance to calm down. It may be necessary to modify some activities to help relieve pain and prevent an injury from getting worse.

An example of this might be a whiplash type injury, where there is no pain initially. Some people may go home and notice some soreness later and apply heat to the area of neck injury. Since there may be tears of muscles and inflammation, this can make the condition worse and there may be more pain upon waking the next day.

Heat & Cold Treatment

Cold treatments for the neck can help to numb pain and reduce inflammation or swelling. If you think you have injured your neck is some way, but do not have significant amounts of pain, an indication to see a doctor immediately, you are safer using ice or cold treatments.

Applying cold treatment to the neck can be as easy as wrapping some frozen vegetables in a towel or moist paper towels for about 15 minutes. This can be repeated every hour or two. Having an ice pack or neck wrap specifically designed to apply cold treatment to the neck is always a good idea and makes treatments easier, more comfortable and more effective. You should not use ice direct on the skin over 1 minute, and many well designed products can be used directly from the freezer.

After an acute stage with inflammation is done, heat treatments can be used approximately 15 minutes each treatment session. Heat is a great way to relax stiff muscles, reduce pain and to promote healing. Standing under a hot shower is a good way to provide moist heat to the neck. Dry heat is not the best form of heat treatment and can actually cause inflammation and congestion.

A simple method of using heat is a moist towel heated in a microwave for about 10 seconds or a minute, depending on the thickness of the towel and power of the microwave. Avoid burns by checking the temperature prior to applying it to your neck.

With the advent of anatomically designed, ready made microwavable hot packs, electric as well as battery powered moist heat and infrared heating pads, applying heat treatments to the neck is easier, safer and more effective than ever.

Generally, use ice for the first day or two after an injury, and after that, use heat.

Naturally, you should try to avoid sudden or quick motions, postures that produce pain and certainly avoid any activity that caused the pain. This is a good time to review posture modifications to help neck pain.

When resting and/or sleeping make sure your neck is supported properly to reduce strain. A relaxing position is lying on your back with a pillow under your knees and a neck roll underneath the cervical spine. This can relax the entire spinal column and provide restorative healing for the mind and body. Using a supportive pillow that is specifically designed for the neck can help you get a good night’s sleep. Be careful getting up; turn to the side using your arms to support you, pushing yourself up. Avoid heavy lifting, reaching and reading in bed.

You may need to use a cervical collar that can help protect the neck as well as provide comfort and support. They are generally made of plastic, foam, or a combination. Usually this is temporary and can be weaned off as you start doing some basic neck exercises and stretches to help prevent future neck pain episodes.

For more information on treating and managing neck pain symptoms, visit or contact us at Neck Solutions, were here to help!


Neck Pain – When To See Your Doctor

Neck Pain — See Your Doctor Now!

Typically, neck pain is not something that requires a immediate medical attention. Most cases of having a stiff neck in the morning or when pain from using a computer usually respond to simple strategies like getting a cervical pillow or using ergonomic or postural modifications. Minor injuries usually respond to some ice, then heat and chronic neck pain often responds to home traction units or exercises.

It is reasonable to try some of these home remedies at first. With a lack of response, it is often advisable to seek medical attention by going to your medical or chiropractic doctor. Usually, tests are done and therapy is instituted, whether it is in office treatments like adjustments or physical therapy and/or medications, injections and possibly surgery.

Sometimes, severe neck pain is unbearable and, if it is present with the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.

neck pain - see your doctor now

See Your Doctor Now For Neck Pain If:

A) Stiff neck, headache & fever. These 3 symptoms should alert one to the possibility of meningitis, a serious medical condition that indicates a bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord covering. Antibiotics are required to treat this as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.

B) Neck pain along with pain, numbness or tingling that travels down an arm, particularly if there is weakness of the hand or arm. This may be a sign that a disc has just herniated and is pinching a nerve. An acute disc herniation can be very painful and may require immediate treatment with medications to help alleviate high levels of inflammation, reducing the risk of nerve injury.

C) Loss of control of the bladder or bowels may indicate pressure directly on the spinal cord from a herniated disc or from degenerative changes resulting in myelopathy of the cervical spine. This may require emergency surgery to remove the pressure and prevent permanent damage.

D)Neck pain with chest pain can indicate a heart attack or angina. This can produce the typical heart symptoms, but may include neck pain, jaw pain and arm pain on the left side. Do not hesitate to get to the emergency room immediately.

E) Swollen glands in the neck that do not go away or get worse. These can be a cause of neck pain related to an infection or even a tumor and requires medical attention.

F) Accident or injury. Injuries producing neck pain should be checked out immediately. Sometimes pain does not come on right away with minor injuries, but can start the next day. Injuries can cause fractures or sprains (torn ligaments) that might just seem like a pulled muscle. This may create a dangerous situation that is not always perceived as being serious, but always get checked out after an injury to make sure there is no serious damage.

So, most of the time it is not serious and can be handled at home or can be managed with the right information and some reasonable steps in the treatment and prevention of neck pain. However, you should be aware of the indications to seek immediate medical attention.