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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

In radiology language the words used to rank the severity of a problem are: minimal, mild, moderate and severe. A MRI in no way is an indication of how much pain a person may be in. As a matter of fact, the MRI is just one piece of the diagnostic puzzle. The neurosurgeon will correlate it to what he finds upon physical exam, basic neurological exam and after listening to your symptoms and description of your problems.

Sometimes something that looks inconsequential on MRI can actually cause a great deal of pain...and conversely, something that looks very serious can be something the person is not even aware of.

Overall, you probably don't have anything that a spine surgeon would consider a big deal, but then, he isn't the one dealing with the pain! The things described in the report are of a degenerative nature. Disc dessication is a drying out of the natural moisture content of the disc. Since the disc is primarily comprised of water, when it dries out, it shrinks in size, which brings the vertebral bones closer together. This is what is meant by "disc space narrowing."

The report does not specifically mention that any nerves are being compressed. However, you have stenosis at several levels...some in the central canal and some in the foramina. Usually when there is stenosis, there is some nerve compression as these are the two passages that the nerves run through. When the central canal or any of the foramen located at each vertebral level are narrowed due to bulging discs, osteophytes, inflamed tissue, etc. it takes up space that is needed so that the nerve can go through the space without being squished. (think of an old iron pipe that has become corroded from years and years of mineral build-up...after a while, water can barely drip through if the "gunk" becomes bad enough).

There are some degenerative changes with the facet joints as well...and this could be contributing to your pain. The facets are synovial joints that allow us to be able to bend and twist. They are subject to arthritic changes just like the other synovial joints in the body, like the knee, hip, fingers and toes, etc. The cartilage breaks down and wears away; there can be swelling or inflammation. This can create some instability and nerves can end up getting pinched.

So, while you mostly have issues that are evaluated to be "mild," you have something going on at every segment of your lumbar spine. Most of it indicates degenerative disc disease which can be painful.

Hope the doctor will come up with a plan of treatment for you. Please come back and let us know what you learn at the appointment.

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