Your spine is an amazing structure that provides support and flexibility for your body. It is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of each other like a series of blocks. Between each vertebra is a soft disc that acts as a cushion and shock absorber. The spine also houses the spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerves that connects the brain to the rest of the body.
There are many different conditions that can affect the spine, including:
- Back pain: Back pain is the most common reason people seek medical attention for a spine problem. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle strain, ligament sprain, disc herniation, and arthritis.
- Neck pain: Neck pain can also be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle strain, ligament sprain, whiplash, and arthritis.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. It is a major risk factor for fractures, including spine fractures.
- Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes the narrowing of the spinal canal. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain, numbness, and weakness.
- Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra slips out of place over the vertebra below it.
- Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally to the side.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and discuss treatment options.
How Spine Investigations Work
There are a number of different investigations that can be used to diagnose spine problems. The most common investigations include:
- X-ray: X-rays can be used to image the bones in the spine and look for fractures, arthritis, and other abnormalities.
- MRI scan: MRI scans use magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the soft tissues in the spine, including the spinal cord, discs, and nerves.
- CT scan: CT scans use X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the bones and soft tissues in the spine.
- DEXA scan: DEXA scans are used to measure bone density. This can be helpful for diagnosing osteoporosis, which is a risk factor for spine fractures.
The type of investigation that is recommended will depend on your individual symptoms and medical history.
How To Prepare For Spine Investigations
Most spine investigations do not require any special preparation. However, there are a few things you can do to make them easier:
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.
- Remove any metal objects, such as jewellery, belts, and glasses.
- Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements.
- If you have any allergies, be sure to tell your doctor.
What To Expect During Spine Investigations
X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, and DEXA scans are all painless procedures. However, you may experience some discomfort if you have to lie in a fixed position for an extended period of time.
- X-ray: During an X-ray, you will lie on a table under a large machine. The X-ray machine will send a beam of X-rays through your body. The X-rays will be captured on a film or digital detector.
- MRI scan: During an MRI scan, you will lie on a table inside a large tube-shaped machine. The MRI machine uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of your body. The MRI scan can take up to an hour or more to complete.
- CT scan: During a CT scan, you will lie on a table inside a large, ring-shaped machine. The CT machine uses X-rays and a computer to create images of your body. The CT scan can take up to 30 minutes or more to complete.
- DEXA scan: During a DEXA scan, you will lie on a table while a scanner passes over your body. The DEXA scan takes about 10 minutes to complete.
After Your Spine Investigation
After your spine investigation, your doctor will review the results with you and discuss any further treatment options that may be necessary.
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