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numbness

Do I need an MRI?

Have you ever wondered if you should have an MRI? Did your health care provider tell you that you did not need one and you wondered why not?

I had a patient from Lacey with a shoulder bursitis ask me that question…and I told her "no" I didn't think she needed an MRI. She had come to me with horrible shoulder pain; on her first visit we simply treated her bad pain after performing a few safety tests to make sure these procedures were safe. On her first visit she could only lift her arm 3 inches, had to be driven to PT and had to have help getting dressed.

After a 3 or 4 visits, she had a lot less pain. She could drive herself, get dressed and lift her arm overhead. She still had pain rotating her lower arm out to the side and had some tingling and numbness. I evaluated her and told her I thought she had had a bursitis and possibly an infraspinatus (one of the 4 rotator cuff muscles) strain but not tear. She wanted to know if she should have an MRI, and I told her I did not think so….she wanted to know why not.

I walked her through the process of understanding how a physical therapist sees if a muscle is torn. I took a large theraband, and showed her how a torn or cut muscle cannot bring the two ends of the joint together if it is not attached in the middle. A physical therapist knows what directions a specific muscle moves the joint. Seeing a joint move the in direction of the muscle tells the physical therapist that the muscles is not torn; if it was torn the joint would not move. Once she had that explanation she understood why she did not need an MRI.

If you want to know why you don't need an MRI, take the time to ask your provider why not…so you can understand the process.