MRI Results: Same As It Ever Was

I went in to see my chiropractor last Wednesday about the results of my MRI. I’d looked at the images that the technician had given me, but I’m no medical professional, so I had no idea what they really meant.

Dr. Smith gave me a copy of the findings, which still needed some explanation. Bottom line? Nothing too bad. If I keep going to the chiropractor and take pain meds and anti-inflammatories as needed, I’ll continue to live relatively pain-free… until I don’t.

Details:

  • 50% narrowing of the disc space height at L5-S1 (the MRI didn’t go up past my thoracic vertebrae, so the M.D. who did the analysis had no way of knowing about my extra transitional vertebra — technically, it would be L6-S1).
  • 1-2mm of bulging at L3-4.
  • 1mm of facet fluid seen at L4-5 and L5-S1.
  • The alignment of the lumbar vertebral bodies is preserved.

My chiropractor patted herself on the back for my vertebrae being in alignment, but it turns out that an MRI will not properly show spondylolisthesis in all cases, due to the nature of how it’s done (having to lay supine, on one’s back). I did a little research into what the hell “facet fluid” was, and came across an article: The correlation between exaggerated fluid in lumbar facet joints and degenerative spondylolisthesis. In this article, the authors explain that degenerative spondylolisthesis is not always identifiable using an MRI, since the patient is laying down and the vertebrae naturally re-align themselves (to a degree). The presence of excess facet fluid — which “is the result of degeneration of the synovial joints” — has a positive correlation with spondylolisthesis.

In layman’s terms: the fluid is another way of showing that my vertebrae are out of alignment when I’m standing upright and the joints are going to shit.

Another bit of knowledge I found while doing some research has led me to sign up for spin class this Friday. I discovered this great page, A Patient’s Guide to Spondylolisthesis, which goes into much greater detail than I’d ever have time to do with my chiropractor. It explained a bit more why I have the pain I do (although Dr. Smith did clear that question up recently, too), and it gives even more examples of non-surgical ways to relieve the pain — such as increasing flexibility in the low back and hamstrings (Dr. Smith prescribed me yoga for that), and use of a stationary bike to help open up the spaces where the nerve roots exit (hence my sudden interest in spinning). It also details the surgical last resorts, like removing part of the vertebrae to stop them from pinching the nerve, then fusing the vertebrae together so that no further slippage can occur. (Yikes.)

At my appointment with her, Dr. Smith told me that it really boils down to me seeing her once a month from now on, doing yoga from now on, continuing to keep my weight down — basically, keep doing what I’m doing, but do it forever.

This isn’t going away… but it’s not getting worse, either.

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