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Imaging Scans

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Did you know Physiotherapists can refer for scans of bones, ligaments, nerves and muscles as well as doctors?

Here are some common types of scans that Physiotherapists and doctors can refer for:


Quick and cheaper than other types of scans. Used to produce images of the inside of the body. X-rays take pictures of bones and can sometimes be used to see certain soft tissues, like fluid in the lungs. X-rays are used to confirm fractures, but not all fractures show up on X-rays. A more detailed scan may be needed to confirm if there is a fracture if it cannot be seen on an X-ray image.


Most people are familiar with pregnancy ultrasounds to see images of a foetus. An ultrasound can also be used to diagnose soft tissue conditions or injuries such as a muscle strain or ligament sprain. Ultrasound scans cost less than MRI scans and are often the first choice to diagnose a musculoskeletal injury. Ultrasound scans can be inaccurate and sometimes a more detailed scan is needed, or the results need to be confirmed with further testing by a Physiotherapist or Doctor.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive imaging technology that produces a 3D image of a body part. It uses a magnet and radiowaves to produce images. It costs more, takes a longer amount of time and is noisy compared to other scans. MRI scans provide images of bone and soft tissue such as nerves, ligaments, and muscles. They are more accurate than X-ray or ultrasound at picking up abnormalities and injuries. MRI scans often show changes that occur in many pain-free, active people in the general population. As people age, spinal disc degeneration, disc bulges and protrusions can be more common and are normal. Think of them as ‘wrinkles’ – they don’t look great – but they don’t hurt. Changes seen on back MRI scans often don’t match people’s pain or symptoms. This can lead to unnecessary worry and people thinking they have to protect their back. MRI scans are useful for ruling out sinister conditions such as fractures or cancer.

The cost of scans varies by body part and whether a physiotherapist or doctor refers for the scan.

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