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Are MRI's ever incorrect?

Hi everyone! I've been suffering from worsening sciatica over the past 6 months. I have had three MRI's done and ALL of them have come back normal. My first one was a lumbar MRI to see if there was any disc herniation, and it came back fine with the exception of one vertebra having a 1mm herniation (without nerve involvement). The second MRI was to look for piriformis abnormalities, and also came back normal. The third was an arthrogram of my hip (ouch), and looked fine. My pain has just gotten worse and worse and I can't believe that nothing shows up on an MRI! I recently started physical therapy with a new PT (my last PT was laughable), and after a lot of poking around and assessing, he really feels that the sciatica is stemming from my back (around L5 area) and not my piriformis as some previously have thought. But is that possible if a lumbar MRI shows nothing??? Also, as a side note, though I love this new PT, after two sessions with him my pain and sciatica symptoms are significantly worse. I'm thinking that maybe it's normal because I went from not working out at all in fear of the pain to suddenly doing back/hip/glute exercises at somewhat high reps. Hoping as I build up some strength the sciatica symptoms will lessen, but it literally kept me awake last night!
1 1/2 years chronic pain in butt, hip, and sometimes low back. 7 steroid injections (piriformis, s1, si joint, hip joint). Hip labral repair arthroscopic surgery 12/2015. Sciatic neurolysis 12/2015.


  • Bit not everything shows up. I had a bone chip the size of a dime that was never seen on ex rays or MRIs. Are they contrast dye MRIs? Laying or standing? My neuro also had X-rays both normal and kinesthetic(whe they bend you in different directions) to help see what the spine is doing when you move. Is it possible this could be swelling that is compressing nerve(s)?

    Sciatica can be tricky , especially if you have had surgery(ies) in your lower back or old injury

    So sorry you are going through this, I hope you find answer quickly!
  • Thanks for your reply OverItAll! My lumbar MRI was without contrast and I was lying down. I've had friends say that maybe I should get an MRI done where maybe I'm standing, or more of a dynamic MRI which sounds like you're describing. My new PT is convinced that the pain is coming from my back, and I've spent months focusing only on the hip and piriformis areas since that's where I feel the pain the most. It's all frustrating!
    1 1/2 years chronic pain in butt, hip, and sometimes low back. 7 steroid injections (piriformis, s1, si joint, hip joint). Hip labral repair arthroscopic surgery 12/2015. Sciatic neurolysis 12/2015.
  • OverItAllOOverItAll Posts: 89
    edited 04/03/2015 - 9:32 AM
    Dealing with my hip before the pain became to frequent and debilitating. Once I had an MRI it was clear it was my lower back, with spasming muscles turning my hip and creating all sorts of symptoms.

    I have never had a dynamic or standing MRI, but the last surgeon required MRI with contrast dye and kinesthetic X-rays thelp him have as best a picture as possible.
  • I literally am going thru same thing. I have constant sciatica pain and lumbar/pelvis MRI pretty much came back as normal. Same thing with pt, makes me worse. With me, in pt I get constant spasms around my si joint. My doctor believes now that this is because of an issue with the s2 nerve. Same as you, they thought piriformis syndrom because of the spasms. My nerve issue is with l5,s1 and s2....: all the nerves that tie into sciatica nerve. They suggested aqua therapy with me which I'm hoping to start next wk. Unfortunately because my sciatica is so bad, they are also suggesting a rhizotomy. I never had sciatica pain until a few months ago and I'm telling you, it is the devil!
  • Aqua therapy(had a great therapist after my fusion surgery)! It felts so great to move and workout in a therapy level heated pool. Just make sure you have a good aqua therapists(i have had one ally good one and one that had no clue)makes all the difference. Oh, and you will hurt aft the first few sessions, going from the really warm pool to land is hard. A good therapist will slowly build you up to weights and resistance without over doing it, which is easy to do in the therapy pool because you feel so much better in there. I hope you find relief soon!
  • ter10beartter10bear Posts: 4
    edited 04/18/2015 - 8:59 PM
    I just found this exercise which helped my SI joint pain a little. lay on your back with your knees bent. put arms straight out to the sides. Move both legs together, keeping legs bent, to each side. Hold for just a little bit. I haven't been able to find any exercises to help until tonight on LIVESTRONG they had this and it helped ease some of the pain. I hate this pain...it's never ending! It might minimize a little sometimes, but always returns. Hope this will help you all! Take care!

    ALL excercise programs should be cleared and approved by your medical provider post op and specific to your individual condition. It is unwise and unsafe to follow the excercise programs of other members without your doctor's permission.
  • Sorry to hear you are dealing with that kind of pain.
    MRI's are a great test but in no way do they show
    everything that can be going on. There are different kinds
    of MRI's standing and others. Also if you don't get answers
    with the Doctor you are seeing find another one be persistent
    and read or research all you can. There are some great tools
    on here that may be of help to you and also have helped me
    to relate my problems to the Doctor.
    I wish you all the help it is hard to live in too much pain.
  • edited 04/19/2015 - 4:10 AM
    where is it ? I ask because ive been in this 12 months a standing and sitting mri are less conclusive because its an open mri and you get less quality and less views. Have you had any injections? The only one I would recommend is an SI joint injection because that is a diagnostic test. piriformis which i find is told to you as a "reason" when they are stumped however the diagnosis exsists but its rare the sciatic runs along the periformis in rare cases it runs thru the muscle and usually injury is what will bring this type of injury on where as you could live with the rare as I mentioned and never know. No signs of disc herniation on MRI? Every test is a diagnostic none is the perfect test. Maybe a spect scan is what you need or and EMG those would be the 2 more definitive. And always get tested with a rheumatologist for RA Lupus, your sed rate and Lymes fibromyalgia rule out systemic and don't let anyone tell you they cant help you its in your head because its YOUR pain and its real....have you had surgery? or any previous injections? keep good medical records and all your tests with you each new dr will want to see them. Good Luck PM if you want to ask me any personal questions I will gladly help....I'm scheduled after 12 months for a diskogram and either a level 1 or level 2 fusion 12 months of hell if I can help you shorten that for you Id be glad to help. A personal question for you are they giving you anything for pain and what type of drs are you seeing? Of you want to share that in PM
    This can't be happening
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