Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: June 6, 2019
If you’ve recently undergone an MRI of your spine, your doctor may mention that you have one or more “high-intensity zones” in your back. But what exactly does this mean, and is it a cause for concern? Below, we take a closer look at what high-intensity zones in your back are, and what they mean for the future or your spine health.
High-Intensity Spinal Zones
Before we explain what a high-intensity zone is, we first need to talk about the formation of your spine. Your spine is comprised of vertebrae that are separated by spinal discs, which help to aid in movement and flexibility. These discs have a tough outer ring that surrounds a softer, gelatinous core. The tough outer disc helps to protect the core of the disc, and it is subjected to wear and tear with each step you take.
Over time, certain areas of your spinal discs can be overstressed, and this can lead to tearing of some of the fibers of the outer layer. These tears can cause discomfort or they may not be symptomatic, but they also have another feature – they appear as a white spot during a standard MRI. When your doctor takes an MRI of your spine and sees one or more white spots in your spinal discs, they diagnose them as spinal high-intensity zones.
As we mentioned above, these high-intensity zones may be a surprise to you because they can develop without symptoms, but oftentimes they are an indicator of back pain or an increased risk of back pain down the road. A recent study involving 72 patients with back pain and 79 without back pain found that more than double the number of patients in the back pain group had high-intensity zones during a routine MRI exam. That being said, more than 20 percent of patients in the no back pain group were found to have at least one high-intensity zone during the imaging exam, so being pain free doesn’t necessarily mean you are also high-intensity zone free.
The good news is that by identifying these high-intensity zones, even if you aren’t suffering from back pain at the moment, we can chart a course to help improve your spine and prevent or treat pain. Oftentimes patients with high-intensity zones benefit from a combination of certain conservative care techniques, like weight loss, posture awareness, physical therapy and regular exercise. These actions help to strengthen our spine and prevent us from overloading certain spinal segments.
Minnesota Spine Clinic
So if you are suffering from spinal discomfort and want to talk to your doctor about your pain, or your most recent spinal MRI revealed some high-intensity zones, consider reaching out to Dr. Sinicropi. We’ve helped a number of patients with their back pain, and we can do the same for you. Contact our clinic today at (651) 430-3800.