Exciting nuclear spin
I put my atoms in a spin today. I was in an MRI machine, feeling claustrophobic, lying very still in a narrow tube surrounded by super powerful magnets and I was very grateful to be there.
My back is essentially in the same painful spasm pattern as it has been for eight weeks now. I have given up on the painkillers which I desperately chucked down my throat in the initial stages of excruciating sciatica and lower back pain. I have now settled into a state of resigned, slightly wide-eyed acceptance that each day I will wake up after a night of pain to experience highs and lows of pain throughout my waking hours before going to sleep in more pain. It's pretty grim and it leaves me very tired and distracted. But it is now my normal.
Having steeled myself for a possible six week wait for the MRI scan (which will reveal the physical problem) I was very grateful to receive a call this morning offering me a cancellation slot.
I got myself to the hospital after frantically cancelling all my plans and once there things moved very quickly. In no time at all I was being reversed into the narrow tube wearing headphones and a hospital gown. I asked the operator not to put the music on. I wanted to hear the machine at work around me.
Now I'm piecing together direct experience of being in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine together with Wikipedia data here so I may have this slightly wrong but as far as I can tell it began its work on my body by exciting the nuclear spin in my atomic makeup. Particularly excited were the hydrogen atoms which are present in the water and fat of my physical form. That felt like being subjected to a long, loud, five minute intro to a Prodigy track that went on relentlessly without ever getting to the main bit of the song. I didn't feel particularly excited but my hydrogen atoms absolutely loved it. I'm quite sure of that.
Then the machine gets clever and starts employing the science of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. In my simplified understanding the nuclei of the atomic hydrogen in my body, having been excited, are then placed into a very powerful magnetic field where they absorb or emit radio waves. This part, another loud and relentless 10 minutes, helped me to understand what it must feel like to be assimilated into The Borg (Star Trek/resistance is futile).
The readings taken from this process can be used to build up a digital picture of the shape of my spine and whatever water-based, fatty body tissue is surrounding or emerging from it, be that bulging or herniated discs, unusual growths, cancerous tumours or indeed whatever else is happening in there.
I'll find out in two weeks.