“Why didn’t my x-ray show anything is wrong? I’ve had pain for months”.

 People are often confused and even frustrated when an xray or MRI test doesn’t show a specific injury or diagnosis. Why do I still hurt when the imaging didn’t show a tear, a fracture, or other injury?


A x-ray or a MRI that doesn’t show anything wrong is a GOOD thing! Chances are you will get better quicker if there is not structural tissue damage that shows on imaging. While imaging tests do occasionally miss an injury, chances are the pain you are having is due to something that will not show up on imaging. A health care provider will ensure you have had the proper imaging for your pain, compare those results to your symptoms, and get you started on the best treatment plan to get back to doing the things you like to do.

What is the pain I am feeling?

  • Pain is defined as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”. Tissues in the body send danger signals to your brain. The brain processes these signals and decides if pain will be produced based on all other input the brain is receiving
  • It’s possible you had an injury in the past. Now the tissue has healed, but you are still experiencing pain.
  • Tissues can be stressed to the point of causing pain without actually being damaged in a way to show up on imaging tests.

How can a physical therapist help me if imaging tests didn’t show an exact diagnosis?

A physical therapist will evaluate how your joints are moving and look for any muscle imbalances that may be stressing the tissues in your body. Correcting any movement impairments will decrease stress on your joints and help prevent a tear or other tissue damage from occurring in the future. A physical therapist will teach how to move optimally when performing the things you need to each day at work, school, and for recreation.

What should I do if I have pain and imaging tests don’t show anything is wrong?

  • Know that we believe you have pain are not "faking it"
  • Realize that injury and pain are not synonymous
  • Be sure you have consulted with health care providers specializing in the are of your symptoms (to ensure all appropriate tests have been done)
  • Consult a physical therapist to help improve your movement and guide you back to your desired activities


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