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Where can I go to understand MRI?

I know it's not here.
I'm a 61 yr old female w/ long term back pain that became much worse over the past year.
I saw the orthopedic and wasn't impressed with his explanation of my situation. He hadn't even looked at my MRI until I showed up. I know this because the day after my MRI I called and asked if I should drop it off. I was told, he would get his own. I reminded them I was told to bring it down. No, he will have one.
I go to my appointment which is 3 weeks after MRI. The nurse said, I'll take the MRI. I explained I didn't have it and what I was told. Luckily we live close enough we hopped in the car and drove a couple of miles to our house.
I felt he was winging things as he told me the results. I don't think he ever used words to describe the parts he talked about.
He would point to something and say, this should be thicker and whitish, this here is blocking nerves. When I saw him 3 weeks ago he did an ex-ray. He asked if anyone told me I had a fracture. I told him no. He said I did have a fracture and showed it to me. I asked him about the fracture. He said you don't have a fracture. See, it would stand out in white. I then reminded him he told me I had a fracture. He showed me on ex-ray. His explanation, it must have been old.
In the end he suggested epidurals. Not much in the way of exercise. I asked if I could use my treadmill, he said no.

I came home and tried to understand my MRI. I'm not really getting anywhere. I want to know what the different diagnosis mean and what I should do to improve my back and things I should stay away from.

I think Doctors should sit with you and go right down the list and explain what each one mean.

So, is there a site that I haven't found with my googling that will explain what my MRI means to me?

Take Care.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 04/02/2014 - 2:26 AM

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I did look through the site but I will take another look.
    Take Care.
  • If it were me I'd ask for a copy of the mri and report and take it to a spine specialist place in your area. My place goes over each finding and explains everything and suggests recomendations and options. Good luck!
  • Do you have the summary sheet? This site is great for going through each finding & researching exactly what the words mean. I'm not very scientific & to be honest I've always had my PM doc or surgeon explain everything & help me understand what can/can't be treated & what is likely causing which pain. I had a great physical therapist who went through my MRI & instructed me not only exercises & stretches but also what restrictions i should apply to my daily life. Most of this took time with me.

    Do you have a pain management doctor who can help you get an action plan in place? I have a lot of restrictions, particularly with exercises but no treadmill has never been one of them. I've just been told to take it easy. It seemed like a bit of a rushed appointment, I'd wait until you can have a good talk with him (or another specialist) before you do anything.

    I'm sorry your appointment wasn't as productive as you hoped. Make a list of all of your concerns & questions prior to your next meeting & I hope it's better. ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • my pain doctor and my neurosurgeon both went over my mris and explained what was going on in pure english. they did not use doctor speak and they pointed out all of the problems i had on the pictures. they were very systematic and helpful. i had no problems understanding what i had and what it would do and what should i have done to help. i believe if you ask your doctors to explain your mris they will and if you do not understand have them explain in simple english what is going on and what should be done. i never had to ask any doctor to explain things to me. every doctor i have had for any condition was very helpful with explaining all of my mri's x-rays, and cat scans. i also asked for the report for my records and if i had to go to a new doctor i would take the reports with me to give them.
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • assistance if you are looking to understand terms. What we can not do is offer an opinion on your report...that needs to come from your spine surgeon.


    Dermatome Map
  • philnoirphilnoir Posts: 52
    edited 04/02/2014 - 7:16 PM

    I too believe that the doctor should have sat with you and gone over every line, showing you how it looks on the film, and what it means. But then I've been told that I sometimes expect too much.

    Have you tried a Google search: "How to read an MRI of the spine" ?

    You might be surprised at what you'll find in places like youtube.
  • I have googled and looked at the links. The earliest for an appointment with the Pain Dr is late May. There aren't many to chose from with my insurance.
    A couple of questions, is severe foraminal narrowing the same as stenosis? It reads severe narrowing on the report for L2-3.
    L5S1-Severe right sided posterior facet arthrosis. Is that arthritis?
    L5- 5mm degenerative neocyst versus synovial cyst to the extraforaminal portion of the right L5-S1 facet joint. What is a neocyst? I have googled and don't find it.
    I've only listed what states severe. There are multi level disc disc bulges with most severe on the right L5-S1 level.
    Advice, epidurals, no treadmill or weights. I can use an incumbent bike and pool.
    Take Care.
  • philnoirphilnoir Posts: 52
    edited 04/04/2014 - 9:37 AM
    Margjo. I'll translate what I can.

    Post edited by Sandi- It is a violation of Spine-Health's forum rules to ask for, and to provide analysis, or interpretation of medical tests.

    You agree not to respond to any request for analysis of diagnostic tests (ie MRI, CTScans, EMG, etc.)

    I expect that soon one of the moderators here will provide you with a set of informative links to library articles here that provide additional information about your degenerative disc disease, treatment options, terms, etc.The moderators do not have all the information and links, some of that is found by members searching the site Within these links is a step-by-step article that will help you through the process of gaining a diagnosis and determining what treatment is right for your life and medical condition.

    I wish you all the best.
  • ShmooeySShmooey Posts: 89
    edited 04/04/2014 - 12:56 PM
    I too have severe foraminal narrowing and facet arthropathy. Just wanted to recommend you try physical therapy with a licensed practitioner. There are many different exercises you can do right at home with minimal or no equipment that can help you get through the day a lot better. I just did 30 minutes of physio at home, and all I used was some resistance bands that I didn't even buy, my PT gave them to me to use at home.

    Give it a consideration, it's been really worth it for me. I've been in PT for three months now, going into my fourth.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
  • Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond.
    A few years ago I tore my ACL and the message boards on Knees was a life saver. Getting feedback from people with the same issues was a lifesaver!
    Shmooey, I have a huge deductible with insurance so I'm opting to do PT (physio) at home. I have a treadmill & weight machine and Dr told me not to use either one? That really surprised me. Do you have a site that suggest the best exercises for our problem? I have been doing workouts in the pool.
    Thanks again!
    Take Care.
  • Cath111CCath111 Posts: 3,702
    edited 04/06/2014 - 12:26 PM
    Hi Margjo.

    I'm really surprised about your doc not wanting you to use the treadmill. What did he say about taking walks? Usually, walking is the best thing (sometimes the only thing) for a spiney. I can only think that maybe it's because he's afraid you might fall off accidentally. That would probably be the case if he lets you go out walking.

    I think aqua therapy would be helpful. Many here love it, along with deep tissue massages.

  • My surgeon would love it if I would get in the pool. So would my PCP. You're doing a great thing with aquatherapy. I feel really uncomfortable in the pool, not to mention a bathing suit, so I refuse to do it. That is their #1 choice for therapy.

    I don't have a website suggestion and I don't feel comfortable recommending specific exercises. What's right for me may not be for you. I know we share symptoms, but a physical therapist is going to know you best. I understand about the high deductible. I only go to the physical therapy center every two weeks because it costs me $40 per session in co-pay. They understand and have taught me lots of exercises for home. I'm really disciplined about doing it seven days a week. I have my go-to set and then I add others to shake things up.

    I've had a spine specialist advise me against the treadmill too, though I'm not sure why. I own one but I don't use it. My PT center has a NuStep, which is awesome. I love that thing. It's a recumbent stair machine. I can rock 15 or 20 minutes on that, and probably more but we do other exercises as well in session. I own a Nordic Track ski machine, which was recommended by my PT. I found it in excellent condition on Craigslist for $45. It sells new for $699. Only problem with that is the learning curve. It's hard to balance and do the alternate arm/leg movements. I've had it for two weeks and I still can only do five minutes at a time. The NuStep costs $3,000 though so I'll persevere on the ski machine!

    I wish I could help you more. I understand about treatment being expensive.
    (see profile for medical details)

    I *heart* my TENS unit.
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