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My results dont indicate the degree of pain and discomfort???

DisillusionedDDisillusioned Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi All,
I'm new to spinal forums and was wondering how many others there are out there like me who are suffering to a greater extent than their MRI results would suggest?
My first MRI results returned the following impression.

Protocol: Sagittal T1, T2, axial T2, T2* gradient echo sequences.
Findings: Satisfactory alignment of cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae with no
fractures identified.
Craniocervical junction is normal in position and morphology.
Cervical and upper thoracic spinal cord has a uniform calibre and signal intensity
with no findings to indicate mass lesion or demyelination.
No focal compressive cervical disc protrusion is identified resulting in canal or
lateral recess stenosis.
Mild degenerative facet joint disease is represent contributing to foraminal
narrowing as follows;
mild right C3/4, mild-moderate bilateral C4/5, moderate right C5/6, mild left C5/6,
mild left C6/7.
Pre- and paravertebral soft tissues appear unremarkable with no cervical
lymphadenopathy identified.
· No cervical disc protrusions are identified.
· Mild multilevel cervical degenerative facet and uncovertebral joint
disease contributing to foraminal narrowings as described.

Protocol: Axial and sagittal T1 and T2-weighted sequences.
Findings: Satisfactory alignment of lumbar vertebrae with no fracture or pars
defects identified.
The conus is normal in position (L1 level) and morphology.
T2 hypointense disc desiccation changes are present at L5/S1 level.
There is a left paracentral disc protrusion with T2 hyperintense peripheral linear
annular tear present.
This contacts and potentially irritates the left S1 nerve root within the lateral
recess (series 10 image 16).
Mild degenerative facet joint disease is present at L5/S1 level not resulting in
foraminal stenosis.
Remaining lumbar intervertebral discs have an unremarkable appearance with no
further disc bulge or protrusions identified.
Remaining lumbar facet joints appear unremarkable with no bony foraminal
stenosis identified.
Paravertebral soft tissues are normal.
· Left paracentral L5/S1 disc protrusion with possible compromise
upon left S1 nerve root.

I have also been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (which I'm guessing is contributing to my back pain?)
Based on these findings I don't think my specialist will consider surgery a necessary option (which I am happy about - but I am disillusioned as this means I can't expect much in the way of relief now)

My burning question is how many back pain sufferers are in agony a lot of the time with only minor findings to support their condition? (on that note I really feel for all of you who have much worse findings - your pain must be impossible to bear - you are all amazing!)


  • Hi Disillusioned, can you please describe your symptoms for us. I can tell you that as a medical practitioner (I'm a hand therapist), we (the hand clinic including the surgeon) do NOT treat the imaging studies, we treat the person, we treat based on symptoms. I can tell you that at least in terms of the hand, sometimes the xray looks like a bomb went off in their hand and they are in the clinic for their elbow and tell us their hand doesn't hurt a bit and sometimes they have completely, stone-cold normal x rays or MRIs and they are in agony. A good doctor or other medical personnel treats the person and the symptoms the person complains of, not the imaging studies. Having said that, yeah, probably nobody will rush into surgery for you but could you have moderate to severe pain with this MRI, absolutely! Mine isn't much better/worse. I have facet issues, 3 levels, both sides and a bulging disc and my pain is moderate-severe and chronic. My doctor treats my symptoms with pain meds, RFA, and they have done a few injections (the injections have never done anything for me). I hope you find a doctor who will listen to you and treat you as a person. Oh, and welcome to the forum :) You are among friends!
  • The upper body problems range from shooting pain from my bicep to my elbow or from my elbow down the inside or outside of my forearms to my wrists. there is frequent tingling in my fingers (mostly on the left side) and pain in the muscle at the base of my thumbs (a lot like like cramping) usually happens when holding onto anything for more than a few minutes. the problems get much worse when my arms are raised above shoulder height with my left arm in particular going numb and very cold (its like the circulation is cut off?)the other problem is fatigue in my shoulders - quite often i will need to pause several times just to brush my teeth? of course there are the frequent neck spasms (sneezing put me in bed for a week once) and headaches.
    the lower body is random with weakness in my calves and feet when walking (usually the left foot is completely dead and i have a lot of difficulty taking a step (kinda have to lift my whole leg and plonk it down. when i stand for long periods the leg pain is excruciating and is very generalized from the lower back to the feet. i often find myself rocking my weight from one foot to the other and back again helps a little. sitting is also random with sharp shooting pains in my buttocks legs and feet. its not uncommon for my butt legs and feet to fall asleep (to the point where you can pinch me and i cant feel it) the sensation usually returns with movement and starts with a big burst of pins and needles! My hamstrings are also ridiculously tight and lying on my back i am lucky to raise them higher than 45 degrees.
    thanks for the warm welcome btw - its nice to be among friends :)
  • you're right, it's a bummer to feel like crud and have your MRI be pretty empty. granted, i am not a radiologist schooled in reading MRIs, so what the heck do i know (lol). but it doesn't seem too scary sounding.

    one of my teammates from college hockey many years ago had absolutely doubling over kinda back pain and all of the imaging she had undergone showed very little. i have a lot of the leg issues as you do.

    just because your imaging doesn't appear to show anything, does it mean that it should be swept aside as if it is of no value. pain is pain regardless of who you are, how much pain you have, and what your tests show. pain sucks, and you are in pain.

    i do not have fibromyalgia so cannot comment on how this disorder may affect back pain syndromes. on any hand, welcome to the forum. i hope you find some answers, and some relief here by just conversing with others who "understand", who "get it".
  • I really appreciate the kind words.
    I haven't actually been back to see my specialist to discuss the results yet, i only got them today! You don't need to be a radiologist to know that at this stage there isn't enough going on to indicate any real need for intervention, which as I mentioned I am actually grateful for! (as hypocritical as that sounds given my disappointment atm - guess i just want an easy way out of this situation)
    it seems surgical intervention can be as harmful as it can be helpful and I wasn't particularly thrilled by the idea of becoming a potential horror story.
    The real frustration is exactly as you mentioned, knowing that you are experiencing real pain (at times debilitating) but there is no solid evidence to support it's origin. My GP has suspected some sort of neurological disorder for a while and i am patiently waiting for a specialist review. I'm not particularly confident that it is even worth the bother though atm!
    Seems MRI's are a great tool for the specialist but funnily enough I have had four pituitary scans done (for partial empty Sella) and each one said something different! first there was a 2mm cyst in the remaining pituitary gland then it was a tumor (benign - they call them microadenoma) the third one confirmed this. the last scan taken two years after the first now says there is neither a tumor nor a cyst? just a normal variant (My Endo specialist looked at the scans herself and showed me exactly where it was 12 months ago?) - I'm no expert and believe me I would love nothing more than to have perfect health (and save my $500 to spend on better things) but i just don't get how each time there's a contradicting result?
    my back is a different issue though! I've seen the scans and the lumbar protrusion only presses up against the S1 nerve without a great deal of compression - there's no real debate there (nor is there debate that it can aggravate the nerve - pain tells me that!). the cervical issues are degenerative - basically arthritis from C2 through to C7 without any disc prolapse. I cant see any other interpretation of these scans.
    what does concern me though is that I obviously aggravate the symptoms through certain movements/postures and this occurs frequently - so without a surgical option it looks like its just the way its gonna be indefinitely! this is the frustrating (disillusioning) aspect. I don't really want to rattle like a walking pharmacy for the rest of my life!!! :??
  • dstaffddstaff Posts: 1
    edited 07/24/2012 - 6:39 AM
    I had a T12 axial burst fracture almost 3 years ago - no pain at that site. Immediately after the fall the pain was just to the left of the spine in the muscle. I'm on my 3rd doctor - evidently the pain meds I was on were too strong (although they only helped pain, didn't relieve it) and is trying the 10's & pressure point injections. They basically don't know why I have so much pain in the muscle directly opposite the spine & why it hasn't healed in this amount of time. I'm frustrated and at a total loss
  • 1. The technician who did the MRI
    2. Your body position at the moment of the MRI
    3. Whether or not the afflicted nerve (if applicable) was pinched in the problem area at the moment of the MRI or if it was moved out at that moment (many of us have nerves that move in and out of the pinched area!).
    4. The quality and upkeep of the radiologic equipment being used.
    5. The radiologist who reads the MRI.

    I'm sure there are other factors, but the point I'm trying to make is that just because the MRI report doesn't show your pain's cause, it does NOT mean your doctor should disregard your pain! It just means he/she needs to keep evaluating. If he/she chooses not to, then find a compassionate doc you can have a heart-to-heart talk with who will help you find the cause of the pain and fix it!
    >:D< >:-D< :hug: God bless you all and keep on fighting the pain and blessing others!
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