X-Rays vs MRIs for Joint Pain

When you seek treatment for joint pain, you might need to have imaging tests done. These tests provide a more detailed view of the affected joint, which helps doctors make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan. With some cases of joint pain, you might have X-rays taken. In other cases, you might need to have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test done. Learn more about these types of imaging tests, including when you might need an X-ray or an MRI.

What Are X-rays?

X-rays or radiographs are tests that involve using small amounts of radiation to capture detailed images of bones and soft tissue. While bones have a white appearance on X-rays, soft tissues have a black or gray appearance. This type of imaging test provides a quick and simple way for doctors to see what kind of condition an affected joint is in and how much damage it has. This information can help doctors determine the right kind of treatment to ease pain and promote healing. Having an X-ray done involves standing in front of an X-ray machine that takes images of specific parts of your body.

What Is an MRI?

An MRI involves the use of radio waves and a magnetic field to produce detailed images of tissues, organs, nerves, and other parts of the body. MRIs are able to generate highly detailed images of affected joints without the use of radiation. The contrast resolution on MRIs can make it easier for doctors to more accurately evaluate joint pain caused by injuries or illnesses in order to create a treatment plan. Having an MRI done involves being placed in an MRI machine that creates cross-sectional images of your body.

When You Might Need an X-Ray for Joint Pain

Doctors can use X-rays to look for certain kinds of injuries that might be causing joint pain, such as fractures and dislocations. X-rays can also be used to check joints for other problems, such as narrowed joint spaces or misalignments. In general, X-rays are used to see if joints have severe damage, but this type of imaging test typically does not show less severe injuries or damage, such as tendon tears or inflammation.

When You Might Need an MRI for Joint Pain

You might have an MRI done if your doctor needs more detailed imaging of affected joints. While you might only need an X-ray for a fracture or a similar injury, an MRI might be needed for check for more subtle kinds of joint injuries or damage. Doctors can use MRIs to look for several kinds of joint injuries and other conditions, such as spinal injuries, inflammation, cartilage loss, or nerve compression. MRIs can also be used to evaluate soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and tears that occur in muscles, ligaments, cartilage, or tendons.

If you have regular or severe joint pain, Huntington Orthopedics can help. Please contact us to schedule an appointment. Our orthopedic team can evaluate affected joints using imaging tests in order to create an effective treatment plan to ease pain and other symptoms.