Multiple Sclerosis, This Is MS

MRI Claustrophobia

MRI Claustrophobia

People with MS are usually monitored annually, semi-annually, or quarterly (like myself, for now). We visit our neurologist to get labs drawn, neuro exams completed, and MRI’s of our brain, cervical, and thoracic spine. These MRI’s can take 45 minutes – 120 minutes, with a brief pause so the tech can inject contrast into our vein to help identify areas of enhancing lesions. I always appreciate my MS neurologists being honest with me when we reviewed my scans. My very first neurologist came into the room one time and said, “your brain scan is lit up like a Christmas tree,” referring to all my active/enhancing lesions. I was told I have well over 2 dozen lesions in my brain and in my spine, along with lesions in the gray matter of my brain. We will discuss the importance of lesions in a future blog post.

Quick side note: the amount of lesions is somewhat irrelevant. It’s most important for the location and size of the lesions. Someone could only have one lesion and be completely bed-bound, while someone with 60 lesions is a normal, able-body with no disabilities. I personally have a major one in my cerebellum that has messed my world up.

Brain MRI w/ contrast showing enhancing lesions

If you have had a MRI before, you will know exactly what I am about to talk about. For those who have never had a MRI before, let me set the scene for you. The room that the MRI machine is in is always very cold. The machine is very loud, and it can be a very tight fit as they slide your entire body into the tube. If you’re getting an MRI of your brain (which most of us with MS do), you’re well aware of the cage that they lock our heads into before sliding us in. The tech securely fastens our heads into place, to help keep it immobile. The cage is within 3 inches or less from the tip of our noses. I personally have never had problems with claustrophobia until recently… I actually have had to squeeze the alert/stress ball that they place in our hand a few times, so we could stop and I could catch my breath.

After my last MRI (2 months ago), I was very apologetic towards the tech for squeezing the ball and needing so many breaks. I told him it was very unlike me to ever squeeze that ball. I usually can sleep right through them. It was like I having a panic attack through my entire scan. This was my second scan in a row that I have been having problems with feeling on edge during the entire scan. The tech told me that people who have been getting MRI’s for many years (like myself), usually hit a wall when they have just had enough, well, I think I am there.

Head cage for Brain MRI & the tube they slide your entire body into

If you have any issues with claustrophobia, your doctor can prescribe you a relaxer to help you through your scan. I know for my next MRI in about 4 months (give or take), I will gladly take a pill to help me relax. If you have never had a MRI before, I encourage you to listen to this entire 0:35 clip below, now picture that continuously for 1-1.5 hours.

Sounds of a MRI

If you have ever had a MRI before, you know they are not fun. In-fact, it’s kind of like a game of red light green light, that we used to play as kids. The only problem is, the light is always red, and if you move, sneeze, cough, flinch, or swallow at the wrong time, you will have to start that portion all over again.

Do you struggle with MRI’s? What gets you through your MRI’s? Let me know in the comments, send me a e-mail, or drop me a message on one of my socials. Thanks!

Best wishes,



2 thoughts on “MRI Claustrophobia”

  1. I found out about my claustrophobia when going into the MRI for the first time. That squeeze ball was my savior. Had to be sedated and go into the open MRI a few times to build my confidence to go into the closed MRI (still sedated) going forward. It’s “annoying” that I know exactly what’s going on, that is even be able to use my hands to push myself out, but that one part of my being is full of “NOPE!!”.

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