Blog Post

If You've Had Recent Back Pain, You May Need an MRI

If you’re struggling with back pain, you’re one of 2 out of 5 American adults who experienced pain in their backs over the past three months. But knowing you’re in good company doesn’t ease your pain. You and your providers still don’t know what’s causing your discomfort.

To help get to the bottom of your back pain, your provider may recommend a back MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This non-invasive imaging study uses radio waves and powerful magnets to give your provider a clear view of your spine and the soft tissues in your back. 

The experienced technicians and board-certified radiologists at Burbank Imaging and Open MRI use MRI machines to help diagnose your condition so you can experience less pain. Here’s a look at why you may need an MRI if you’ve had recent back pain and what to expect. 

Why would I need an MRI for back pain?

People get back pain for many reasons, and often, it resolves on its own within a few weeks. If you have chronic (ongoing) back pain, it could be a sign of an underlying condition. 

Back pain isn’t the only reason you may need a spinal MRI. Having one or more of the following symptoms could be a sign you need a back MRI:

  • Severe back pain
  • Chronic low back pain
  • Chronic mid-spine pain
  • Chronic neck or upper back pain
  • Back pain that radiates to your chest
  • Back pain that radiates to your arms
  • Back pain that radiates to your legs
  • Back pain or stiffness that affects your range of motion
  • Trouble with your balance or walking
  • Having paralysis or weakness in your body
  • Inability to control your bowels or bladder
  • Losing function in your feet
  • Inability to maintain normal posture 
  • Muscle spasms or ongoing pain

You may also need an MRI for back pain before planned surgery or treatment to help your provider plan your procedure(s). 

What part of my back does an MRI study?

It depends on where you have pain and your provider’s recommendations. A low back MRI, also called a lumbar MRI, creates detailed pictures of the lower part of your spine. If you have upper back pain, your provider may recommend a cervical MRI, which captures your neck and upper spine. 

Some patients have MRIs of their entire spine. At Burbank Imaging & Open MRI, our team uses the Hitachi Airis IITM Open MRI. This state-of-the-art machine gives us the most accurate images of your spine, tissues, and organs. 

These detailed pictures help your provider look at the small bones of your spine (vertebrae), the discs, spinal canal, your spinal cord, and the muscles and tissues surrounding them to look for back problems, such as:

  • Curves or abnormalities in your spine
  • Infection
  • Swelling/inflammation
  • Tumors
  • Spinal injuries
  • Slipped or building discs

A back MRI can also check for issues related to past treatments, like back surgery or injections. 

How long does it take to get a back MRI?

The length of your back MRI depends on several factors, including how much of your body gets scanned. Generally, an MRI for back pain takes less than 60 minutes for the scan though it can last 90 minutes in some cases. However, the entire process can take up to 2-3 hours as you need to arrive early, consult with the team, and prepare for your study. 

When you get an MRI at a hospital, it can take weeks for a radiologist to analyze your results and get the report to your provider. At Burbank Imaging & Open MRI, our dedicated team analyzes your results immediately and gets them to your provider within one business day so you can start treatment sooner. 

How can I get a cost-effective back MRI?

If the cost of getting an MRI has you thinking twice about this crucial diagnostic study, there are ways to have a more cost-effective exam. For example, having the imaging study at a hospital typically costs more than scheduling your MRI at a dedicated imaging center.

To keep the costs of your MRI down, always call your insurance company before having your scan to make sure your policy covers it. Sometimes not using your insurance can be more cost-effective when you visit an independent imaging facility that offers lower rates.

At Burbank Imaging and Open MRI, we offer pre-negotiated cash rates starting at $375 to make high-quality MRI studies affordable for every patient. For patients with insurance, our practice accepts most plans. 

If you’re experiencing back pain and need an MRI, schedule a consultation online or over the phone at Burbank Imaging and Open MRI in Burbank, California.