What Does a Pinched Nerve Look Like on an MRI?

Dec 15, 2021

what-does-a-pinched-nerve-look-like-on-an-mriIf you are dealing with pain that has gone undiagnosed, then your doctor may recommend diagnostic imaging tools like MRI scans to help identify the underlying cause. An MRI can provide your doctor with highly detailed images of the affected area. The body is filled with millions of nerves that help support everything your body does throughout the day and night. When one of these tiny nerves becomes aggravated, you don’t necessarily expect it to wreck your whole day. However, a pinched nerve can really impact your quality of life due to the painful and uncomfortable symptoms. A pinched nerve can show up on an MRI because of how highly detailed these scans are, and your doctor can use this to pinpoint the location and proceed with the best course of treatment for you.

Common Causes of a Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve can occur for a number of reasons. The mildest example of a pinched nerve is often referred to as “my foot falling asleep.” You may have been sitting in one position for too long and start to notice a pins and needles sensation in your foot or feel like your foot is numb. This is because one of the nerves that sends signals to your foot has become compressed and is unable to function properly. This type of pinched nerve easily resolves once you change positions or move around for a little bit. However, a more serious case of a pinched nerve can cause pins and needles and other symptoms that affect you for much longer periods of time.

How a Pinched Nerve Affects You

A pinched nerve can cause that pins and needles sensation that feels like a combination of pain, tingling, and numbness in a certain area. You may experience slightly different symptoms depending on the location of the pinched nerve, too. For example, a pinched nerve in your neck can cause tingling, numbness, and shooting pain that radiates into your shoulder and arm. A pinched nerve in your lower back, on the other hand, can cause shooting or stabbing pain that moves down the back of your leg. A pinched nerve that doesn’t get treated properly can end up causing permanent nerve damage.

How to Diagnose a Pinched Nerve

In order to diagnose a pinched nerve, your doctor will first want to review your medical history and any diagnostic imaging tests. X-rays only show bone and cartilage, so they are not as effective at helping to diagnose a pinched nerve, though they can help rule out other causes of your pain. MRI scans are state-of-the-art and provide doctors with the clearest cross-sectional images of a specific area to help inform an accurate diagnosis. An MRI can also help your doctor see what other nearby structures may be affecting the pinched nerve, like inflamed muscles or misaligned vertebrae. Your doctor may also conduct nerve tests to check the function of certain nerves in the body.

MRI Scans for a Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve might be tiny, but it will still show up on an MRI scan and provide your doctor with a lot of information on how to proceed. A pinched nerve is what causes your symptoms, so your doctor will want to identify what structures inside the body are compressing or damaging that particular nerve. MRI scans actually come with less risk than other scans like X-rays and CT scans that use radiation. An MRI is a large machine with a rotating magnet inside that takes cross-sectional images of a specific part of the body. When you get an MRI scan, you won’t need to take any special medications in order to proceed, and you can continue to go about your day once the scan is complete. You cannot wear jewelry or any metals inside the MRI machine since it uses large magnets. At AICA Orthopedics in Snellville, our team of doctors has access to a state-of-the-art imaging center right in the office, so you don’t have to go all around town to get the scans you need. Instead, we offer on-site MRI scans for your convenience and so that you can get started on treatment for a pinched nerve right away.