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Physiotherapists with Diagnostic Imaging

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Physiotherapists and Diagnostic Imaging

In some provinces physiotherapists can perform additional training to prescribe diagnostic imaging to patients.  Diagnostic imaging could be an x-ray, ultrasound, MRI or other imaging technique.  When a physiotherapist is unable to prescribe imaging, they usually refer patients to their family physician.

Physiotherapists are in a unique position to be able to prescribe diagnostic imaging.  Prior to ordering imaging, physiotherapists have performed very thorough orthopaedic physical assessments; they’ve tested ligaments, tendons, joints, muscles, nerves and more!  In many cases, a physiotherapist would have treated a patient prior to ordering imaging.  In other words, physiotherapists have usually developed a very good understanding of the patient’s body prior to ordering imaging.

By the time a physiotherapist is ready to recommend diagnostic imaging, there is usually a specific structure / tissue / pathology in which they’re interested or suspect an issue.  It also means that the imaging may change the course of the patient’s care, so in this case it is necessary.  Physiotherapists won’t prescribe imaging if it is not going to change the course of a treatment!

When used appropriately, imaging technology can provide great insight and guide treatment.  It is important to note that as we learn more about imaging, we are finding out that certain radiographic findings are not always prognostic (predictive of future pathology) or explain current pathology.  Your physiotherapist will be able to explain more on this matter, but try not to get to hung up on imaging reports!

Please note

This article is not intended to be a literature review.  While some literature may be cited in some cases, this article should not be used as scientific-evidence of a treatment or service.  Please contact your physiotherapist or other appropriate health care provider to better understand the scientific literature supporting or refuting the use of a particular treatment.

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