Fonar MRIs are of lesser quality but if you already have paid out of pocket for this, don’t immediately run to get a higher quality MRI. The images might be acceptable.
I understand completely about your experience at the VA. Years ago I was on staff there and know how problematic it is.
The spinal canal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) can put the cord at risk with a fall impacting the front of your head (see central cord syndrome). However, with a Fonar MRI, the potential for this injury is limited if they only found stenosis in extension (bending your head backwards).
Find a good sympathetic local spine surgeon who has good diagnostic skills. The history and physical examination should give a very good idea of your potential pain generators. The imaging should lead to one or two “suspects”. It is then a matter of using diagnostic injection (see website) to understand what the primary pain generator is.
You might need surgery if the injections do not yield long term relief and surgery is not inexpensive (and either are the injections). You could use the work-up by this outside physician to take to the spine clinic at the VA and see if they will consider doing the surgery.
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.