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Do I Need A Scan?


This is a question we get asked all the time.


The answer will depend on your individual circumstances, but it largely boils down to the answer to the following questions:


- Are we worried there is something serious going on that would need to be investigated further?


Following a thorough subjective & physical examination by one of our Physiotherapists, we should be able to give you a good indication of this. There are typically some clear indicators of serious pathology. If we flag something up, we will discuss this with you & liaise with your GP about how to best manage this.

- Is the scan likely to tell us what the problem is?


The common perception is that a scan will tell us what the problem is. Sometimes yes, but more often not. Scans will provide us with lots of incidental findings that are irrelevant to the presenting problem in many cases. It is very common that someone is in a lot of pain, but a scan doesn’t show anything & vice-versa. When the clinical presentation matches the scan finding, it becomes a lot more relevant & can help us to diagnose & manage the problem. A thorough subjective & physical assessment should be the first port of call in most non-emergency situations.


- Is it going to change the management of the problem?


It may be that surgery is an important consideration for you – in this instance a scan may be beneficial to help with the management of your problem. If in most cases, injections or surgery aren’t top of your list of things to do at the moment, particularly with back or neck pain, then this is an important question to answer. For example, largely speaking, spinal injections are done to help with arm or leg pain associated with the spine, not for the spinal pain itself. It is also important to consider that if the finding on the scan is not the cause of the problem, then surgery may not resolve your problem.

If the answers to the above questions are generally ‘no’, then it is unlikely that a scan is going to be of any benefit in the first instance. They can become more useful if things aren’t progressing as we would expect them to though. Also, sometimes scans do provide peace of mind & reassurance that there is nothing sinister or significant going on. This has to be taken into context when deciding if pursuing a scan via your GP is the best thing to do, but largely speaking, a thorough examination by one of our Physiotherapists should help to put your mind at ease.


For further advice, assessment & treatment, please contact us at Harbourside Physiotherapy.

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