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When do you need an MRI and when do you need an X-Ray?

A doctor has suggested and prescribed an MRI or an X-ray, what does that mean exactly? We frequently hear of these tests, but are rarely told what they are looking for, what they mean and how they differ. That’s why we are here! We are going to briefly break down their purpose and why it is important to follow doctor’s orders.

An MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, also known as radio waves. An MRI is used to provide detailed pictures of your organs and body tissue. A specialist can then observe these pictures to understand your injury or illness, and help to build a cohesive plan of action. An x-ray also uses radiation imaging to take a picture of your bones and tissue, but these pictures are not quite as detailed or clear and do not provide the same detailed information an MRI could.

Ultimately an MRI is a nuanced, broader and clearer picture of internal abnormalities, and takes a much longer period of time to complete. A doctor will order an MRI when you have torn a ligament or tendon, or have a long-lasting injury. An x-ray can be taken very quickly and can assess your bone health and determine if there are any sprains or fractures. X-rays are quick and provide quick, detailed information on a broken bone or sprain. An x-ray can help a doctor to observe your injury, but if you are in need of surgery or prolonged treatment an MRI will be ordered and taken to allow your specialist to get a clearer look.