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Can an MRI Reveal the Cause of Your Back Pain?

Can an MRI Reveal the Cause of Your Back Pain?

Lower back pain can have many different causes, from a muscle or ligament strain, arthritis, or osteoporosis, to more drastic causes like a tumor impinging on a nerve or a ruptured or herniated disc

When most people experience lower back pain, they usually do not consult a doctor right away. This sometimes makes sense, as everyone can experience minor back pain from time to time as a result of some physical activity, such as playing a strenuous game of tennis or picking weeds for an entire morning. For these routine ailments, sufficient rest and over-the-counter pain relievers are often enough to resolve a lower back pain problem in a few days.

However, there are times when back pain does not go away when the pain comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, or the pain is so severe that you know something more serious is at play. In these circumstances, you will want to see a doctor right away. However, a doctor cannot recommend an effective treatment plan unless and until the doctor knows what is causing your back pain. Consequently, in addition to asking you questions and performing an exam, your doctor is likely to order some diagnostic imaging tests. One type of imaging test is called an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test. An MRI can generate a detailed, high-quality image that can help a specialist correctly diagnose the cause of your pain.

What Is a Wide-Bore MRI?

An MRI is a diagnostic device that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create an image of your internal tissues. MRIs are used for a wide number of medical complaints, and they are very helpful for diagnosing certain types of health issues in the lower back. The MRI produces internal images that can reveal spinal abnormalities, including degenerated discs, sciatica, and cancerous growths.

Many patients who have undergone an MRI experience physical discomfort and a feeling of claustrophobia as the machine moves them through the narrow “tunnel”. However, the latest MRI technology, called a wide-bore MRI, combines superior diagnostics with a higher level of patient comfort. The moving platform is more restful for the patient to lie on, and the “wide bore” is more open. At the St. Charles Spine Institute, we use the Optima MR450w system from GE Healthcare, an advanced MRI which features a wide bore. 

What Happens During an MRI?

A complete MRI scan usually takes about 30 minutes to complete, performed in short sequences of two to six minutes each. You prepare beforehand by wearing comfortable clothing, free of any metal parts like zippers, snaps, hooks, or buttons. Before being placed on the MRI platform, you will also have to be screened for any metal in your body, including any prosthetic joints, pacemakers or cardiac stents.  It is important to determine if these implants are MRI conditional (or compatible). In some cases, an intravenous contrast material called gadolinium will be given intravenously prior to the test. This substance enables the machine to produce clearer images.

During the test itself, you will lie on the platform. You will have to be very still as the machine moves you through the bore. Several series of images will be taken, and you will hear clicking noises during this process. Although the technologist is not in the same room as you, you and the technologist are able to communicate through an intercom.

What Happens After the MRI?

After your MRI, you will meet with your doctor. Depending on what the MRI has revealed about the cause of your back pain, any number of different therapies may be recommended to address your particular problem. 

Thankfully, today, there is a wide range of therapies available for addressing lower back problems that were not available even a decade ago. Lumbar arthroplasty (artificial disc replacement in the lower back), steroid injections, stem-cell therapy, kyphoplasty, and sacroiliac fusion are some of the procedures that may be recommended to address your problem. The right procedure can often restore range of motion to patients with serious back problems, and enable you to obtain effective and long-term pain relief. 

Lower back pain is one of the most common causes that people cite for limiting their activities, especially as they age. Sometimes, lower back pain can become chronic, bothering people when they get out of bed or stand up, or after sitting for a while. If you have lower back pain, don’t assume that you simply have to live with it. With today’s diagnostic tools like wide-bore MRI and the ability of spine doctors to resolve serious back problems through the right therapy, you owe it to yourself to see a spinal specialist for a consultation. Schedule an appointment with the St. Charles Spine Institute today.

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Can Regenerative Medicine Be Used for Spine Problems?

Can Regenerative Medicine Be Used for Spine Problems?

If you suffer from unrelenting back pain, you aren’t alone. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that nearly 60% of adults in America are living with chronic back pain. Yet, despite their discomfort, many individuals are hesitant to go to a doctor, fearing that they will have to have risky, expensive, or difficult spine surgery that will take months to recover from. But what if you were able to fix your back problem and alleviate your pain without surgery? 

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What to Expect From Spinal Injections

What to Expect From Spinal Injections

If you are experiencing intense pain in your back, neck, legs, or arms that you cannot seem to get rid of, you may be suffering from a pinched nerve in your spinal column. When you have this kind of chronic pain, it can make even the simplest tasks difficult or uncomfortable, and sometimes the pain is not relieved even when sitting or laying down. 

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Coming Soon: AxioMed’s Viscoelastic Lumbar Disc Replacement

Coming Soon: AxioMed’s Viscoelastic Lumbar Disc Replacement

At St. Charles Spine Institute, our goal is to give relief to patients who experience back pain and debility – from whatever cause – in the most effective manner possible. This effort means that we look at the vast array of different spinal problems that our patients present, and try to address their conditions with the best treatments available

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New Robotic Technology for Spine Surgery

New Robotic Technology for Spine Surgery

Recently, Los Robles Health System announced the acquisition of a Globus Excelsius GPS Robotic Navigation System, somewhat lightheartedly referred to as the “GloBot”, that will aid surgeons in conducting spinal surgery. As noted in the Thousand Oaks Acorn, Dr. Erik Spayde, orthopedic spine surgeon at the St. Charles Spine Institute and Chief of Spinal Surgery at the Los Robles Regional Medical Center, was the lead surgeon for the first surgery performed on this new platform at Los Robles. 

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Epidural Steroid Injection for Back Pain: How Long Does It Last?

Epidural Steroid Injection for Back Pain: How Long Does It Last?

When you suffer from lower back pain, it can be completely debilitating. Even non-strenuous activities like walking or driving a car can become unbearable if undertaken for extended lengths of time, and even simple tasks can cause severe pain. 

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What Are the Most Effective Spinal Fusion Alternatives?

What Are the Most Effective Spinal Fusion Alternatives?

When you are suffering from unrelenting back pain, you may feel as if you are willing to do anything to alleviate your pain, even if it means having back surgery. And when people think of back surgery, they often envision a spinal fusion–that is, a surgical procedure in which damaged portions of the spinal column are removed, and two or more vertebrae are treated so that they ultimately fuse together into one unit. However with current technology spinal fusions don’t have the same recovery as they used to, and most people are able to return to a high level of activity. 

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What Is the Difference Between a Cervical Arthroplasty and a Lumbar Arthroplasty?

What Is the Difference Between a Cervical Arthroplasty and a Lumbar Arthroplasty?

The word arthroplasty means “artificial disc replacement,” or more specifically, the surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint. When removing a damaged spinal disc and replacing it with a man-made prosthetic disc, that could be classified as cervical or lumbar arthroplasty. Read on to learn more about these procedures.

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Who Is a Good Candidate For XLIF?

Who Is a Good Candidate For XLIF?

Chronic back problems and discomfort can negatively impact your quality of life and make completing even everyday tasks difficult and painful. Extreme lateral lumbar interbody fusion, or XLIF®, is a promising solution for individuals who experience lower back and leg pain that is the result of certain types of spinal degeneration or deformities. 

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What is Dynamic Spine Stabilization

What is Dynamic Spine Stabilization

Everyone experiences back pain now and then, but if you have back pain in the lower lumbar region that becomes so severe and persistent that it prevents you from being able to comfortably carry out even normal daily activities, you may have a serious spinal problem in need of medical attention

If you are unable to obtain relief from your back pain by utilizing traditional therapies or conservative approaches such as exercise, rest, or pain medication, you may need surgical intervention. At St. Charles Spine Institute, we offer a spinal surgical procedure that takes a new approach to surgical remedies for back pain and spinal stability. It is called dynamic spine stabilization, and it may be what you need to obtain long-term pain relief and to regain your enjoyment of life.

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What is Involved In Cervical Arthroplasty

What is Involved In Cervical Arthroplasty

Cervical arthroplasty, also called artificial disc replacement, is a surgical procedure designed to remove a herniated or otherwise damaged disc in the neck and insert an artificial implant to replace it. At St. Charles Spine Institute in Thousand Oaks, California, we perform this minimally invasive surgery to help patients to alleviate chronic neck pain. Unlike fusion, this procedure doesn’t limit the range of motion in the joint. What’s more, the recovery time is usually fast, and the patient’s risk of developing herniations in adjacent discs is very low.

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Who Is a Good Candidate For Sacroiliac Fusion?

Who Is a Good Candidate For Sacroiliac Fusion?

If you have ever experienced severe lower back pain, you know it can render you incapable of getting through a normal day, and keep you from carrying out even basic activities like driving a car, taking a walk, sitting down for a meal, or even relaxing on the sofa.

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4 Tips For Exercising After Spine Surgery

4 Tips For Exercising After Spine Surgery

Recovering from many types of spine surgery, particularly surgeries that use minimally invasive techniques, can take anywhere from four to six weeks depending upon a number of factors. However, there is a universal truth to spine surgery recovery: your recovery will go more smoothly and be more complete if you engage in a regular regimen of safely exercising your back.

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How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?

How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?

Stem cell therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that uses stem cells to heal the body. If you’ve been suffering from pain as a result of the aging process or an injury, we can harness and magnify your body’s own healing potential to repair the damage and possibly even avoid surgical intervention.

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What Is a Kyphoplasty Procedure? 

What Is a Kyphoplasty Procedure? 

Have you been diagnosed with an osteoporosis-caused fracture? If so, you may need vertebral augmentation to ease your back pain. There are several types of vertebral augmentation, but kyphoplasty is usually preferred due to its minimally invasive nature and effective results. If you’re curious about the ins and outs of this procedure, keep reading to learn more about what it is and who is a good candidate.

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How Does Total Disc Arthroplasty Work?

How Does Total Disc Arthroplasty Work?

Are you experiencing spinal pain and are unsure if artificial disc replacement could be the solution? Use this guide to help you understand the ins and outs of this cutting-edge procedure.

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Can You Move Your Neck Normally After Cervical Fusion?

Can You Move Your Neck Normally After Cervical Fusion?

When the vertebrae in your cervical spine have begun to deteriorate, your doctor might recommend a specialized cervical fusion procedure to repair the damage and prevent further pain. Many people worry that fusing the vertebrae together will limit their mobility and prevent them from moving their neck and head normally after the surgery, but that is not normally the case. Here’s what you need to know about fusion surgery and mobility.

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What Is the Success Rate of XLIF Surgery?

What Is the Success Rate of XLIF Surgery?

When treating spinal disorders, many patients may feel as if their only options are invasive and recovery-intensive procedures or surgeries. However, a modern technique called XLIF, which stands for Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, has revolutionized the treatment of back and leg pain caused by degenerative disc disease. At St. Charles Spine Institute in Thousand Oaks, CA, patients can experience relief from painful conditions through this safe and effective treatment.

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Recovering from Spine Surgery: How Long Does It Take?

Recovering from Spine Surgery: How Long Does It Take?

Do you have nerve root compression causing extreme sciatica? If so, you may be a good candidate for lumbar disc microsurgery at St. Charles Spine Institute in Thousand Oaks, CA. Due to the minimally invasive technique we use to perform this procedure, the spine surgery recovery process is much easier than recovery from other spine procedures. Here’s what you need to know about the recovery process.

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Spondylolisthesis

This condition occurs when a lumbar vertebra slips out of place. It slides forward, distorting the shape of your spine. This may compress the nerves in the spinal canal. The nerves that exit the foramen (open spaces on the sides of your vertebrae) may also be compressed. These compressed nerves can cause pain and other problems.

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Spinal Stenosis

An overall narrowing of the spinal canal and can occur on a more congenital basis where a patient has pre-existing canal tightening which is exacerbated by disc injury or a degenerative process producing a build-up of ligament and joint as well as disc bulge from the anterior side producing spinal stenosis.

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Scoliosis

This condition is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It most often develops in early childhood, just before a child reaches puberty. A lateral (to the sides) curvature that also occurs with a rotational component is most readily noticed when looking at the body from the back. This is frequently manifested as a shoulder or pelvic asymmetry or an overall imbalance of the trunk to the left or right.

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Sciatica

This condition is an irritation or compression of one or more nerve roots in the lumbar spine. Because these nerves travel to the hips, buttocks, legs and feet, an injury in the lumbar spine can cause symptoms in these areas. Sciatica may result from a variety of problems with the bones and tissues of the lumbar spinal column.

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Osteoporosis

This condition is a loss in bone density that results in fragile, porous bones that can fracture easily. Osteoporosis is most common among elderly women because of accelerated bone loss after menopause.

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Myelopathy

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is caused by compression of the spinal cord in the upper spine, or cervical stenosis. There are multiple causes of cervical myelopathy. The traumatic, from fracture or injury, chronic pressure due to disc and spur build-up and then, less commonly, caused by tumor. The onset of myelopathy is also more common in the patient born with a smaller spinal canal.

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Kyphosis

This unnatural curving of the spine is a deformation caused by disease or damage to the vertebrae.

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Herniated Disc

(also referred to as herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP), disc rupture, or disc prolapse)

A herniated disc occurs when the outer wall of the disc is torn and a portion of the disc is now pushed out through this outer wall tear. The term “annular tear” comes from the tear only without herniation and the term “herniated disc” arrives when the center nucleus is herniated out through the tear in the wall. This phenomenon will cause pain in two ways. The nucleus will produce a chemical and the irritant response on the nerves. Back pain is also produced by the tear in the annular wall.

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Degenerative Disc Disease

This condition is a weakening of one or more vertebral discs, which normally act as a cushion between the vertebrae. This condition can develop as a natural part of the aging process, but it may also result from injury to the back.

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Compression Fracture

A compression fracture is a spinal fracture resulting from compression of the vertebra. Compression fractures can occur in any area of the spine. It can affect one or more vertebrae. Compression fractures typically develop in your mid or lower back. This can change the shape of your spine.

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