The Southeastern Spine Institute

Discover what can help get you through this important diagnostic procedure.

An MRI test doesn’t hurt at all, but the machine itself is foreboding and noisy. Most MRI machines resemble big tubes into which you are rolled. If you’re at all claustrophobic, the experience can be excruciating. And while the test itself is painless, you have to lie perfectly still inside this big, magnetic tube while a clamoring of loud banging, thumping and pounding surround you. It can be enough to frighten anyone.

But an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, test is just a procedure similar to an X-ray. Unlike an X-ray, the MRI captures your tissues and organs instead of your bones. The machine uses radio waves inside a magnetic field to create faint signals that form cross-sectional images. MRI images look a bit like slices of bread.

When you’re inside the machine, though, you can feel stressful. Some tests last up to 60 minutes to complete. Between worrying about what your doctor may find, the fact that you can’t move and all the noise, everyone needs a few MRI tips to endure the procedure and come out feeling fine.

Why Go Through It

When your doctors are trying to diagnose your back pain, one of the MRI tips they use is to look at the inside of your spinal cord to see if you have any spinal cord injuries that aren’t obviously apparent. Other conditions that an MRI can show include:

  • Tumors
  • Signs of a stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Bone infections
  • Arthritis
  • Disc abnormalities

Having an MRI test presents few risks, but tell your spinal doctor if you are pregnant or have any metal in your body, such as a pacemaker or cochlear implant. With the following MRI tips and a technician who makes you feel comfortable in the machine, you can get through the test.

MRI Tips

  1. Wear earplugs to block the repetitive, loud sounds of the test.
  2. Ask for a mild sedative, especially if you have a touch of claustrophobia.
  3. Practice deep, meditative breathing techniques. Breathe in through your nose to a count of six and out on a count of 10.
  4. Try aromatherapy. Studies show that lavender and vanilla are calming scents for most people. Put some essential oil on a scarf or pillowcase that can accompany you inside the machine.
  5. Seek out a therapist with experience in treating claustrophobia and other fears. Perhaps a couple sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy can help tremendously.
  6. Distract yourself by making mental lists. Think about your grocery list, or get lost in reciting a list of vegetables in alphabetical order.

Talk to your doctor about your concerns and fears. He may be able to schedule you into an open MRI machine instead of the closed tube that’s more common. When your doctor knows you need all the MRI tips you can get, he and the MRI technician will be aware of your fears and give you more personal consideration and maybe even a little extra-special treatment.