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PT Rebels Podcast | Dr. Gina Fick, PT, ScD

MRI Imaging

When is an MRI Scan Necessary?

The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is relatively common in the management of orthopedic injuries. Countless physical therapists review MRI scans to help diagnose specific ailments and examine damaged or irritated joints, tissues, bones, and more. However, most physical therapists are selective in how they use MRI reports and images to support and explain the patient’s clinical diagnosis, leaving many patients wondering if they need an MRI for proper diagnosis. 

Fortunately, the physical therapists at Fick Physical Therapy and Sports Performance have put together a guide to teach you about the use of MRI and when it’s required to treat medical conditions during the evaluation process.

Fick Physical Therapy and Sports Performance is a team comprised of experienced and highly trained physical therapists dedicated to improving their patients’ quality of life. We help people overcome their ailments and injuries and help them return to the activities they love as quickly and safely as possible. Our team will help restore your vigor so you can live life to the fullest virtually pain-free.

Why is an MRI Useful for Physical Therapists?

MRI allows physical therapists the opportunity to view detailed pictures of your body’s internal structure. They help medical experts analyze a person’s bones, muscles, nerves, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, which helps the physical therapist understand their patient’s ailment or injury better. Sports medicine experts and physical therapists also MRI to rule out potential causes of a patient’s pain or discomfort.

However, physical therapists don’t use an MRI to evaluate or diagnose every ailment or injury. In fact, they are trained to assess and treat most patients without diagnostic test results. 

MRI alone doesn’t affect the therapist’s prescribed exercises or treatment plan. It’s just a tool to help medical professionals better understand specific issues affecting a patient. 

The MRI can also help uncover medical problems and injuries within asymptomatic patients (people suffering from an injury or condition without experiencing symptoms). Many patients don’t realize they have an injury or physical ailment until they receive an MRI scan.

Can a Physical Therapist Order an MRI?

Our physical therapists can provide you with a comprehensive evaluation to determine if imaging would be helpful for you. We guarantee you will be seen in our clinic within 24 hours following your injury. If we feel that it is necessary, we can order an MRI and refer you to an imaging center minutes away from our clinic. A radiologist will read your MRI, will compile a report, and we will have these results to you within 2-3 hours of your MRI scan.

Skip the long wait times, the high cost of going to urgent care clinics, or the emergency room. Don’t delay getting the diagnosis and starting a plan of care by waiting for a referral from your orthopedic physician.

If your imaging report demonstrates the need for further evaluation and treatment from an orthopedic physician, we help you connect with top-notch physicians in the area who can best help with your specific needs.

If you don’t require a physician’s care, we’ll talk about what we can do to help you return to your active lifestyle.

When Will My PT Order an MRI?

Many physical therapists will order an MRI when a patient’s recovery process stalls or regresses. In addition to a thorough physical examination, an MRI helps physical therapists analyze the issue and understand how to treat the ailment or injury more effectively and efficiently. 

Another reason physical therapists use MR imaging is to confirm a hypothesis that may require surgery. They assess the patient’s MRI findings in conjunction with their medical history, recent test results, and musculoskeletal exam, and when necessary, they will refer the patient to a physician who can further coordinate the best care for the patient.

What Are Some Injuries and Conditions MRI Helps Uncover?

MR imaging can find multiple injuries and conditions within asymptomatic patients, ranging from herniated discs to tissue inflammation. Below are some common issues that MRI helps uncover:

●        Spinal stenosis

●        Nerve compression

●        Arthritis

●        Disc herniations

●        Shoulder and hip labrum tears

●        Rotator cuff tendon tears

●        Meniscus tears

●        Inflammation

●        Tendonitis

MRI technology helps physical therapists understand ailments and injuries in people of all ages and walks of life. However, older patients usually require MR imaging more than younger people. 

It’s important to note that most people require different treatments even if they suffer from the same condition or injury. If two people suffer the same spinal cord injury, one patient may need more intense physical therapy sessions than the other patient. Physical therapists analyze the following to determine a patient’s recovery regimen.

●        Physical presentation

●        Injury location

●        Injury quality

●        Symptom intensity

●        Aggravating movement

●        Medical history

●        Physical activity

●        The patient’s healing stage

●        The patient’s personal goals 

As stated before, an MRI is only a tool to help physical therapists understand a patient’s injury or condition. Most physical therapists examine and treat patients without an MRI. They work with you to discover the best treatment option for your unique condition or injury. Although an MRI is sometimes necessary, most patients won’t undergo the process.

Contact Fick Physical Therapy and Sports Performance for First-Class Physical Therapy in Highlands Ranch, CO.

If you need physical therapy in the Highlands Ranch, CO area, contact us at 720-480-2866 or email us at We will help you recover from your ailment or injury swiftly so you can enjoy your favorite activities without severe pain or discomfort. Our team always prioritizes your needs and won’t hesitate to go above and beyond to give you a pain-free life. Whether you need help recovering from a running injury or are having pain with your golf swing, Fick Physical Therapy and Sports Performance is here for you.

If you’re ready to take the first step to a more active and pain-free lifestyle, contact Fick Physical Therapy and Sports Performance at 720-480-2866 and see what our physical therapists can do for you today!

Gina profile

Gina Fick

Fick PT & Performance

"We Empower You To Recover From Injury As Quickly And Safely As Possible In Order To Optimize Your Function And Maximize Your Athletic Potential."


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