What Does a Pinched Nerve MRI Look Like?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive test that is used to help physicians diagnose problems within the body. A common use for the MRI is to locate and diagnose a pinched nerve. The MRI provides a clear and detailed image of the internal body structures.

Image Characteristics

The MRI image will be printed in shades of black, white and gray. The MRI of a pinched nerve can be viewed on a computer monitor, copied to a disk or printed onto paper.

Image Details

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An MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio frequency pulses to obtain a detailed view of the anatomy of the body. The MRI image of a pinched nerve is commonly done in the spine; it will show the vertebrae, spinal disks, spinal cord and the spaces between the vertebrae.

Spine MRI

A pinched nerve occurs when an excess amount of pressure is placed on the nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons or vertebral disks. With an MRI of the spine, a herniated disc can be seen pressing into the pinched spinal nerves.

Other MRI

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An MRI can also be used to diagnose a pinched nerve in other areas of the body, such as the wrist. The MRI will typically show a swollen tendon or ligament pressing on the nerve.


The MRI will show the exact cause of the pinched nerve. Once the cause has been determined, proper treatment can be determined.