Do you need an MRI for your neck pain or back pain?

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Back pain and neck pain is a common complaint, especially among women. These aches can be attributed to menstrual cycles, stress, lifting children and even computer use. As women age they may suffer from back pain due to past injuries, poor posture or arthritis pain - let's face it, we're more active now in later years than past generations!

So your doctor has recommended an MRI for your neck and back pain - what next?

Why an MRI for my back pain and neck pain?

If you are experiencing neck pain or back pain, your doctor may recommend that you have an MRI of your cervical spine, which is located at the top of your spine. An MRI is often recommend for ongoing pain because it can provide more detailed images than other imaging techniques (x-ray, CT) and is better at detecting abnormalities of the spinal cord, small discs, nerves and tissue.  The MRI of the cervical spine also shows parts of the lower brain including the cerebellum for evaluation. 

What will an MRI of the cervical spine show or evaluate?

A cervical spine MRI can evaluate the cervical bones, discs, spinal cord, muscle and tissue surrounding the spinal cord and the lower brain. Some of the issues an MRI can detect include fractures, tumors and infection in bones; bulges, infection and disc flattening in discs; infection, fluid collections and tumors in tissue and muscle around the cervical spine; blockage of the spinal canal. 

Dr. Stephen Sweriduk, Medical Director of Shields Health Care Group, says “We do a lot of MRIs of the cervical spine for patients who have neck pain or they have neck pain that is radiating down their arms. We also do a fair amount of MRIs of the cervical spine for patients who suffer from Myelopathy which is weakness in your legs and lower extremities or some changes in bowel or bladder function.”

What should I expect at my appointment?

A cervical spine MRI scan takes approximately 30 minutes. The MRI technician will take series of photos and help position you comfortably. At Shields, you have the choice of free XM satellite and the option of bringing someone with you in the room. Shields also offers the option of a wide-open bore machine at most of our centers, providing a more comfortable scan experience. If you suffer from claustrophobia, are tall or big-boned, don't forget to ask for a wide, open-bore machine when scheduling your appointment. 

For more information about how to prepare, visit our patient preparation page:

How much does an MRI of the cervical spine cost? 

The cost of an MRI of the cervical spine will vary depending on where the procedure is done. If you have insurance and you choose a Shields facility or one of our partnering hospital locations, the estimated price is between $700-$900 for a scan without contrast dye. On average, other hospital and health care providers in massachusetts charge about 60% more than this. For an actual price, its always best to check with your insurance provider, or talk to a Patient Financial Services Specialist at Shields to confirm the price: 1-877-712-3075. 

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