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What will an MRI on my back show me?

My doctor is taking an MRI of my back. What does this procedure tell a doctor.
An MRI uses magnetic imaging to produce a very detailed picture of the structures within the body. This type of imaging is often used in the work-up of back problems, as it is among the best ways of imaging the spinal cord and the nerve roots as they exit the spinal canal. The MRI will be able to detect any evidence of bulging discs, compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots, or inflammation or abnormal signals within the spinal cord or nerve roots. Abnormal signals can also be detected within the vertebral bones or the intervertebral discs, which may represent infection or inflammation. The MRI is often used to help better delineate any problems with the soft tissues within the body. The back is comprised of several large muscle groups, and the MRI can help detect any abnormal tears or inflammation within these muscles. You should talk to your doctor about the indications for getting the MRI of your back, and make sure that the results of the test are explained to you so that together you can come up with a cohesive plan of following up or treating any abnormal findings on the MRI.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.
Who answers these questions?
Answers are written by doctors from top institutions:
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Boston Children's Hospital
  • NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Mass General Hospital
  • Beth Israel Medical Center
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