How to Stay Calm During an MRI: Try These 7 Tips

February 16, 2023 – 4 min read

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How to Stay Calm During an MRI: Try These 7 Tips

Learning you need an MRI can trigger a certain amount of anxiety, especially if your doctor suspects you have a concerning health condition or you don’t like small, confined spaces. These feelings are perfectly normal, but you don’t want them to keep you and your doctor from getting the valuable information necessary to help you. MRI scans are safe and painless procedures. If you have a scan coming up and are wondering how to stay calm during an MRI, these seven tips can help.

1. Remember That Knowledge Is Power

Everyone’s experience with an MRI scan will be slightly different. Still, knowing what to expect during an MRI can help ease your concerns.

MRI machines use radio waves and strong magnetic fields to make a 3D image of internal body structures. Importantly, they do not use radiation. Because of the strong magnets, you will need to empty your pockets of coins and other metal items and remove jewelry, eyeglasses, and clothing with metal parts, such as zippers and metallic fibers.

American Health Imaging (AHI) locations use several types of MRI machines. Many are far more open than a traditional MRI machine. For example, the Advanced Open MRI by ASG is fully open above, behind, and in front of you. Additionally, some machines allow you to have your scan sitting or standing instead of lying down. Even some traditional MRI machines have wider openings than older models.

An MRI machine is often loud, though certain types of machines are quieter than others. Ear plugs or headphones with music are available to block out the noise.

Some people will get an MRI with contrast. That means you will be given an IV or shot with a contrast agent that makes MRI images brighter or clearer.

You will need to stay very still during the scan. The length of the scan varies. An MRI scan usually lasts from 15 to 60 minutes, but it may be slightly shorter or longer.

2. Practice Positive Self-Talk

Give yourself a pep talk before and during the MRI scan. Remind yourself that:

  • All you need to do is stay still.
  • It is a safe and painless procedure.
  • The scan is temporary and will be over quickly.

3. Use Relaxation Techniques Before and During Your Scan

Before your appointment, take a few minutes to do something that relaxes you. You could go for a short walk or sit outside.

Breathing exercises or guided imagery meditation may be helpful as you prepare for the MRI. Several free apps can walk you through these techniques. Or try box breathing — breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds and hold your breath again for four seconds. Repeat as many times as necessary to help you calm down.

During the scan, try practicing mindfulness. Simply notice what is around you without judgment. Notice the shapes of the MRI machine or the feel of a blanket. Another option is to close your eyes and imagine being in a beautiful, peaceful place, such as a beach or mountain trail.

4. Use a Distraction

Many types of MRI machines allow you to listen to music or watch a movie during your scan. This can help keep your mind off the noises you hear and keep you entertained during what can be a 15–60 minute scan.

5. Hold a Panic Button

If you are worried about having an anxiety or panic attack, ask for a panic button during the scan. You can press the button at any time to let the technician know you need to stop. Even if you don’t use the button, it can be a comfort to know that you can.

6. Bring Support

In many cases, you can bring a friend or family member with you into the room with the MRI machine. The person with you will also need to remove all jewelry and glasses and ensure they do not have any metal in their clothing, pockets, or body. If they cannot come into the room with you, having someone to talk to before or after the scan can put your mind at ease.

7. Consider Sedation

People with anxiety, claustrophobia (a fear of closed or small spaces), or those who have difficulty staying still may choose to take a light sedative before the scan. This medication can help your body and mind relax but will not make you fall asleep. You may still find yourself drifting off during the scan, and that’s OK. In fact, some people find a quick nap in the MRI machine to be a helpful way to pass the time.

Schedule an appointment at one of American Health Imaging’s many convenient locations.