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bad lower back pain but mri was normal
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nc71680 posted:
well ive been dealing with crippling lower back pain now for over a year. its a workers comp case. so anyways,they finally got me scheduled to get an mri for my back and the mri results were normal but im still in really bad pain and my legs go numb all the time. my question is could the mri have missed something?please let me know asap!!!!!!!!!!!! im in pain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!thanks.
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bj1208 responded:
Hi NC71680 - I have had bad back pains for 4 years now - had back surgery 2 years ago and since have been in worse pains than before surgery -

long story short - have had numerous MRI's/CT Scans/Myelograms/Discogram - numerous epidurals/facet joints/radio frequency nerve ablation/TENS Unit/Physical Therapy/Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial Implant/EMG Nerve Conduction Tests - so many I get tired of them - all tests showed nothing wrong with my back - maybe small areas of arthur taking refuge -

My PM Doc asked if I would want to see a surgeon to get opinion on my back - so why not? saw an orthopedic spine specialist (neurosurgeon operated on back) the ortho suspected that possibly my fusion started to take then failed - so he wanted a CT Scan with cross sections done (he couldn't believe that this was not done before) so had this done middle of Feb 2010 (also had MRI done in 9/09 - which showed nothing) -

The results of the CT Scan shows that i now have 3 bulging discs!!!

I would tend to agree that possibly the MRI u had missed some things depending on, I guess, they ordered it - maybe a new test showing cross sections needs to be done to see if there is anything going on with ur back as what u are describing sounds as though u may have a pinched nerve being caused my a bulging disc -

i know with wc claims it's hard to get things done and approved - do u have a wc attorney??? if not, please get one that deals only with wc cases - normally they don't ask for money up front but will take a part of the settlement - be in ur best interest to get one -

I hope that you can get the proper tests done to show what is going on - just got to keep fighting -

please keep us informed as to what happens - take care - Joy
 
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MagPrincess replied to bj1208's response:
I agree with Joy

Also you probably do need to get a referral to a spine specialist.

I had the opposite effect that both my Xrays and my Cat scan showed normal it wasn't until the MRI that we found the bulging discs.

Did they do contrast or no contrast. if it was no contrast they likely did not see any issues that the nerves themselves maybe causing.
 
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Tomish responded:
nc71680 i have the same exact problem and it seems it does`nt go away would you please tell me if any progress hopefully went well please reply me as soon as possible
 
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DUKE MEDICINE
Joe T Minchew, MD responded:
Unfortunately, this is a very common scenario. MRIs are very sensitive and not specific. This means that they often find all kinds of things that may or may not be related to the pain. So, if the study was truly "normal" the chances that it missed something htat is serious or a clear cut cause of your pain is very unikely. If you have not already had a consult with a spine specialist, having one now to review your case and your MRI may be reasonable. However, do not be surprised if he or she is unable to give you a clear cause of your pain. Only about 10% of the time can we look at any type of x-ray or MRI and say with certainity that something is the cause of back pain. Even in 2010, we do not have a test where a flashing red light goes off at the site of the pain. As such, many times the focus has to shift from finding the source of the pain to coming to grips with the pain. If you have had pain for a year, the statistic unfortunately suggest that you will continue to have pain for sometime (maybe indefinitely). The goal may have to become to minimize your pain and to maximize your function. I can try to reassure you by saying that the pain is not like the pain of a hot stove on your hand. The pain is not burning or damaging your back to it is okay to try and be as active as you can, even if it causes some pain.

Sorry to paint such a grim picture, but I believe in being honest and to the point. Having realistic expectations can help you move forward. I hope things do improve even if the pain does not go away completely.

Good luck!

JTM
 
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justasuggestion replied to Joe T Minchew, MD's response:
I had a thoracic MRI that came back "fine", and still don't know what to think as there is definitely something going on there. I'm not sure they tell us everything as I know others who have had clean MRIs but have neurologists really root stuff out. My concern here from the initial post is that it was work-related. The mri places that companies generally approve of and set you up to go to will say right on the site that they use undertrained staff to keep costs low right on the right page. They also work with companies for a reason, and advertise to them. So....I hope this was done through a reputable doctor's office, one who was independent and/or looking out for YOU, nc. Your legs should NOT be going numb. A friend was hurt at work and it was dx-ed as a lumbar strain for 8 months, legs numb and all, until he went to a real ortho who immediately did surgery. Just a thought. Even at top MRI facilities, MRIs are not foolproof, sorrry.
 
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Anon_236120 responded:
sorry, my reply posted below:I had a thoracic MRI that came back "fine", and still don't know what to think as there is definitely something going on there. I'm not sure they tell us everything as I know others who have had clean MRIs but have neurologists really root stuff out. My concern here from the initial post is that it was work-related. The mri places that companies generally approve of and set you up to go to will say right on the site that they use undertrained staff to keep costs low right on the right page. They also work with companies for a reason, and advertise to them. So....I hope this was done through a reputable doctor's office, one who was independent and/or looking out for YOU, nc. Your legs should NOT be going numb. A friend was hurt at work and it was dx-ed as a lumbar strain for 8 months, legs numb and all, until he went to a real ortho who immediately did surgery. Just a thought. Even at top MRI facilities, MRIs are not foolproof, sorrry.
 
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An_245368 replied to Joe T Minchew, MD's response:
are you serious? do not apologise for painting "such a grim picture." you are suggesting that we should focus on pain management (which fails miserably and most ppl end up with addiction problems) and forget about the root/cause of the problem! well that is essentially the problem!

i do believe MRI's can be incorrect due to human or equipment error. i was hit by drunk drive in 1998 and suffered multiple spine problems. i crushed 2 lumbar discs when i about 8yrs old. these problems continue to deteriorate. have had the entire array of treatment and even saw a chiropractor for many years, refused narcotics and continues exercise. but now, i have paralysis, weakness, severe pain, hearing loss, numbness, tingling, feeling like ants are biting me , burning like pepper was being rubbed on my skin...and more. had multiple MRI in past 12 years- all showing SEVERE DISC DEGENERATION IN L3, L4. last yr MRI showed MASS on thoracic spine. i went to get MRI for head, neck, thoracic, lumbar spine 2 weeks ago and conclusion for each: NEGATIVE!!! SERIOUSLY!!! I AM DEVASTATED. i decided to research and now found 100's of similar stories. i am now close to hopeless! this is an outrage. i will not give up, i will keep fighting, i have a family and i refuse to be violated. for the doctors who are too lazy, careless, and fatalistic, you will get your due. i's no wonder so many ppl are dying from suicide or drug overdoses- they simply want to be out of the pain that no one else understands. pls respond with your stories. MRI's can be wrong wrong wrong!
 
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davedsel57 replied to An_245368's response:
Hello.

I agree completely. I had an MRI in June 2008 that was worthless. The neurosurgeon sent me somewhere else and the results were accurate but depressing. That second MRI was used as part of my SSDI application which was approved in only 2 months.

As with everything else in life, especially health care, we need to be proactive and persistent. We are in charge of our bodies and our health care. If we are not happy one place, try someplace else. It is terrible the hoops we must jump through to get the care we need but it can be done.

An_245368, you have an excellent attitude of tenaciousness and persistence. There is always hope and there is always help. I pray you get the proper treatment and relief you need.
Click on my user name or avatar picture to read my story.

Blessings,

-Dave
 
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trs1960 replied to Joe T Minchew, MD's response:
I was going to start typing a similar response...it's great when the Doc's chime in.

I've read that as MRI's came on the scene the data surprised the medical feild. I beleive it was 50% of people with atypical MRI results (a positive indication of a problem) reported no pain or discomfort. While equally, 50% of people with complaints of back pain had normal (negative indications of problems) on their MRIs.

As the Doc said, the MRI is just a tool. It's a senstive instrument that measures energy changes in the hyrdrogen protons as they are released from a polarized state. To do what it does is simply amazing and it is far superior to an Xray for soft tissue imaging. Taking an MRI in an area with a titanium prosthetic just shows an artifact in the area of the dense metal. It looks like a hole in the image.

Of course ferrous metals have very bad results being anywhere near the super strong magnets in the MRI.

As I understand it discograms are no longer in favor as they tend to do more damge to the disk annulous. The annulus is the outer layer of the disc and looks like a woven rope. It is very course and does not mend well. Thus when penetrated with a needle for the discogram the gelatanous material in the disc tends to leak out.

IMO it's imparative to learn as much as you can about your body/injury so you can help the doc use the tools best. I.E. each nerve pair serves a specific part of the body so learning as much as you can about your symptons can help you explain to the doctor precisely what's going on.

MRIs only show high resolution imaging in relatively small areas (varibles on machines) so knowing the target is paramount to calibrating and targeting the MRI.

I had my thoracic and lumber imaged at one time. It took multiple runs and was basically like getting two seperate MRIs at one time. The target area was simlply larger than the field of view of the MRI antenna.

I like to say, it's like astronomy. We can give accurate vector and material composition of almost any star in the visible universe...doesn't mean we can do anything about it though.

Thanks Doc I enjoyed reading your opinion. It makes me feel good when my recollection reconciles (or at least resembles) that of the medical professional.


Tim
 
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mellycooper replied to trs1960's response:
I am having some serious pain too.. I have nothing to contribute here but I am impressed with the support this board seems to have.
 
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dianer01 replied to mellycooper's response:
Hi mellycooper:

Thanks for joining us, and I am sorry to hear of your pain. I came here a little over 4 years ago and have found a tremendous amount of support. Sometimes just knowing you aren't alone gets you through a long night.

You are not alone.
 
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FS2020 replied to An_245368's response:
Remember that MRI's are taken while you are lying down and immobile. I have severe back pain and my right leg goes numb, but only when I put a load on my spine, i.e., when I stand, walk, sit straight up or bend over. When I lie down the pain almost goes away. The parts of the lumbar spine move when loaded and when the body moves. An MRI while you're lying down and immobile does not show what happens when your spine is loaded and moving. Also, it only takes a very small thing touching a nerve to cause pain. Think of how annoying a very small pebble in your shoe can be.
I would like to respond to a few comments in this thread about pain treatment. Someone said that most patients on long term pain treatment become addicted. This is not true. The body becomes dependent, but this happens with many types of medicine. Addiction is a disease that makes life progressively worse, often with the end result being jail, death or an institution. The majority of patients on long acting pain med's for long periods (years) live normal lives. Without the pain med's, many patients (including myself) could not function.
One person bragged that she "refused narcotics" implying that others could do so, if they were just strong enough. I'm sorry, but if you can refuse narcotic pain meds, it just means that your pain is not bad enough to destroy your ability to function. I used to believe that, if I were just strong enough, I could refuse pain med's. I tried for a long time. What happened was that I became severely sleep deprived and very depressed. I lost all professional and social function and became suicidal. Chronic pain is a medical, biological condition. Thinking that you can be strong enough to overcome it is liking thinking you can be strong enough to overcome diabetes or other medical conditions.
Finally, regarding the "pessimistic" doctor, it is true what he said, that the longer you have chronic pain, the greater the chance that it won't go away. Furthermore, the success rate of back surgeries is not good. We just have to do everything we can and try everything we can until we find the best situation possible.
 
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Emashburn replied to FS2020's response:
I am having the same issue. I had a baby almost 4 months ago now and about 2 months ago I started having numbness in my low back, legs and feet when I stood for a period of time. It has now progressed to painful numbness, low back pain very unbearable, right arm, hand and finger numbness and pain and my right shoulder and neck hurt and go numb as well. I have had MRI's on my head, neck, upper, middle and low back. Only thing shown was a herniated disc in my neck which my neuro said wasn't really bad enough to cause these issues. He said he thought I may have fybromialgia. Are you kidding me?? I know several people that have this and I am not sure I have the same symptoms. I have a hard time holding my child if I am standing. When I am sitting I still have the arm pain and numbness but not in the legs so much. Wonder what the test would show if I were standing? I am confused, frustrated and in pain!!! I don't know where to go from here!
 
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bj1208 replied to Emashburn's response:
hi and welcome to the support group -


what I would do is gather all your test results and get another opinion - from either an Orthopedic Spine Specialist or Neurosurgeon Spine Specialist - you indicated your NEURO said........ is this Neuro a spine specialist or a Neurologist or Neurosugeon? there is a big difference if they are not a spine specialist as they are the only ones that can actually read MRI/CT Scans properly, diagnose and give the best treatment options.


From what you are describing the spine issues in your lower back resemble issues of possible bulging disc(s) pressing on a nerve root. Seeing the proper spine specialist and having an MRI focused on this part will determine what is going on. There is no way for an MRI or CT Scan to be done standing. There is an X-ray that can be done standing where they will do a flex and extension X-ray where you are bent forward as far as possible and backwards as far as possible. this will show any problems that you may have with your disc (I have one done each year as I have a disc that slides and I can feel the grinding).


I have read where there is a new MRI machine where patients can sit while have the scan done. I hear it's really good and shows more details. However, there are not that many places that have this machine.


So I really think you should get another opinion, maybe more than one, just so that you know exactly where you are and what your diagnosis is.


Please let us know what you find out - take care - Joy


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