CSA Physio Blog

Since when do physiotherapists order xrays?

Posted on: May 4th, 2019 by Jeffrey Begg

In 2013, Alberta Health granted physiotherapists ordering privileges for certain types of diagnostic imaging (xray, ultrasounds and MRI). This was another step in the advancement of primary care practice for physiotherapy in Alberta. Including myself, CSA employees a number of these qualified PTs.

I have knee pain. So you mean I don’t have to see my doctor in order to get an xray?

First of all, you should always include your doctor in your health care. It’s just that in many cases, people will see their physiotherapist first when they have a nagging joint pain. Physical therapists are considered primary care providers for bone, muscle and joint problems. Sometimes as part of your examination an xray can be helpful to rule certain conditions out.

Certain physiotherapists can refer you for these procedures directly. This saves time and can free up your family doctor from this task. If your physio is qualified to do so, they can also order diagnostic ultrasound as well as magnetic resonance imaging. (Often times, they can also advise you when imaging is unnecessary and might expose you to unnecessary risks.)

There are three keys to making the diagnosis of any injury.

  1. The history of how you started hurting.
  2. The physical examination.
  3. Diagnostic images such as xrays.

Of the three, the first two are by far the most important. Many, if not most cases that we see in physiotherapy can be diagnosed without any extra imaging. In tricky cases, I certainly utilize whatever tests may be needed to get to the bottom of things for you.


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