Medical Imaging: To Scan or Not to Scan?

admin / Thursday, April 28th, 2011 / No Comments »

Many clients call me explaining how they have injured themselves and ask “should I have an X-ray and come see you?” At times it is necessary to go for a scan to determine if there is a broken bone, osteoarthritis or disc bulge. Other times it helps a therapist to gain a better understanding of your problem as the imaging is so advanced. The truth is a good practitioner will be able to assess you and determine the source of pain or injured structure with their own clinical reasoning. My personal opinion is to be assessed by a qualified physio, therapist or doctor and then be referred for a scan if it is needed. I try to avoid scans as much as possible, as your body absorbs a small amount of radiation or is affected by high powered magnets. Studies have determined that these are very low levels that are not harmful; nevertheless if it is not necessary, I don’t believe it is worth getting a scan “just in case”.

Anyways, the purpose of this blog is not to scare you off scans, it is to give you a better understanding as to which scan you should go for. This will save you time, money and exposure to unnecessary rays. Below is a list of the most common scans clients will have to go for when dealing with muscoskeletal injuries:


Provides a view of the skeleton and will show basic fractures and osteoarthritic joints

CT (Computed Tomography) Scan:

Provides a more in depth view than an X-Ray and will show more complicated fractures that X-Ray may miss (such as tiny stress fractures). It will also provide an image of soft tissue structures such as muscle, ligaments (tears) and disc (bulges).


Provides an image of soft tissue injuries such as muscle tears (Hamstrings, Calves, Shoulder) and tendons (tendonitis)

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging):

 Is the top imaging for soft tissue injuries (muscle, tendon) Such as Anterior Cruciate Ligament (deep in the knee). Also creates a great image of the spinal cord which is why it is used for lower backs

Bone Scan:

Will pick up softer fractures and older fractures and is thus used more for elderly patients.

DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry):

Will measure bone mineral density and determines whether osteoporosis is evident.

If you are ever unsure about anything or just visited your doctor and did not really understand what they have just told you please feel free to call me on 0405325511 and I will discuss in normal English what the situation is.

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