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Why You Should Always Get an X-ray

Dr. Pamela Mehta – board certified orthopedic surgeon, San Jose, CA

So, you have pain in your limbs or joints, and you want to go see your physician about it. You know that you didn’t break your bone -so why is it that you’re always going to need an x-ray?

I’m going to tell you today.

What is an X-ray?

An x-ray is a low-radiation picture of your bones that helps your physician diagnose or rule out conditions that affect your bones and joints. Bones or thick material appear as white or opaque densities on an x-ray, whereas soft tissue (like muscles and tendons) shows as gray and air show up as black.

wrist xray view
A wrist xray can rule out a fracture

Why an X-ray is the Number 1 Diagnostic Test to Get First.

The number one thing I look at when I’m looking at an x-ray is your joint spaces and your alignment. I can gather a ton of knowledge just by looking at the contour of your bones, seeing if there are any bony spurs, and looking at the joint spaces to see if they are narrowed which compartment the narrowing is in.

If there’s any misalignment of the bones, I need that complete picture to be able to see exactly what the problem is. When it comes to lower extremity joints, I will also need to see a weight-bearing x-ray.

What is a Weight-bearing X-ray?

For a weight-bearing x-ray you stand up (or in other words bear weight) and we take an x-ray. Simple right?

But why is it so important? From this type of x-ray, I can tell what kind of pressure and what joint forces are acting upon your joints. It is so incredibly different to take a picture of your knee while you’re weight-bearing and standing versus when you’re lying down on a table like you would for an MRI.

knee x-ray arthritis
Knee imaging can help determine the cause of your symptoms

But I Already Had an MRI! Why Do I Still Need an X-ray?

Oftentimes, you’ll come to see a doctor, you’ll have an MRI with you, it’ll already be done, and you’re confused.

Why is it that I still need an x-ray?

Well, there are many things we can see on an x-ray much better than we can on an MRI, such as:

  • Joint spaces
  • Alignment
  • Bone contour
  • Spurs
  • Swelling
  • Dislocation
  • Malalignment
  • Subluxation
  • Mal-unions and non-unions

All these things can view better on an x-ray versus an MRI.

In addition to this, if you’ve had previous surgery, we can see a lot of things going on with your joint on an x-ray. We can see any hardware that may be broken or malaligned, or a fracture that has healed hasn’t healed in anatomical position. All these things are better seen on an x-ray.

Some benign tumors that are best seen on X-may include a bone cyst, a non-ossifying fibroma, a unicameral bone cyst, and an osteochondroma.

hand xray in san jose
A hand xray rule out bone breaks and fractures.

But I Know I Didn’t Break a Bone! Do I Still Need an X-ray?

If you had a serious fracture you’d know it, but even if there’s not much pain or swelling it’s still possible that you have a smaller fracture or stress fracture! These can be best seen on an X-ray.

Sometimes when you sprain your ankle, you could have a spa avulsion fracture of your lateral malleolus – that’s a small chip off your bone. Of course, you can see this on an MRI, but it’s best to see on an x-ray where you can see the alignment of that avulsion fracture as well as how it’s related to the rest of the bones.

I hope I’ve been able to clear up why an x-ray is so incredibly important when you go seek medical attention about pain in your joint or bones.

How Resilience Orthopedics Can Help

pamela mehta scrubs headshot

Dr. Pamela Mehta is an orthopedic surgeon and a specialist in sports injuries, degenerative arthritis, and minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Mehta offers a concierge service and treats you holistically, rather than just fixing your joints. She listens to your concerns, takes time to explain how your condition and potential surgery will affect you, and works with you to create the best treatment plan.

Resilience Orthopedics is based San Jose, California. To make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment the first time, get in touch to begin your journey to recovery.

Testimonials

Ruby G.
Ruby G.
2021-07-30
Verified
My experience with Dr Mehta was simply phenomenal. I had a cyst on my wrist and severe shoulder pain. Dr Mehta scheduled me quickly and her staff were so kind and personable.  She discussed the treatment plan with me in detail and made me comfortable with plan. Her bedside manner was kind, empathetic and thoughtful and she went out of her way to make me feel comfortable. After treatment my shoulder was pain free after months of agony, and she removed the cyst  from my wrist.   She followed up with me the next day to make sure I was ok. I can't recommend Dr Mehta highly enough, high quality, comfortable treatment from a wonderfully skilled surgeon. Thank you Dr Mehta!
S G.
S G.
2020-07-29
Verified
I highly recommend Dr. Pamela Mehta. I was recently helped by her for a broken bone that needed surgery. She is a very detailed-oriented and thorough orthopedic surgeon who thinks creatively about solving problems every step of the presurgery, surgery and recovery. She is top-notch. I had an extremely positive experience with her and would recommend her and her staff to anyone seeking a smart, professional and detailed team for a bone cast or orthopedic surgery.
Samantha L.
Samantha L.
2020-06-14
Verified
When your children like to run around barefoot it is inevitable that they will eventually get something lodged into their foot. Our daughter was climbing some trees in our backyard and wedged a couple splinters deep in her foot. After a few hours of attempts at home to remove these splinters with our own tweezers, soaking the feet, various internet remedies (and lots of scared screaming from our daughter when we got near her with tweezers) we sought the help of Dr. Mehta. Dr. Mehta's kind and calming approach was most helpful when she quickly examined the foot, spoke with our daughter, and then removed the two splinters from her foot. She helped to keep our daughter calm during the procedure and deftly pulled out the splinters. We recommend Dr. Mehta to anyone needing an expert physician who can deal with delicate patients!
Michele G.
Michele G.
2020-06-14
Verified
Dr. Pamela Mehta earned my highest MD review.  I have seen a half dozen surgeon's involving multiple surgeries for orthopedic injury and this doctor checks all the best boxes: * an emphatic listener * holistic 'whole person' treatment; much more than just a skilled surgeon * tightly networked to other excellent coordinating care MD's * recommends surgical alternatives whenever possible * real concern for functional patient outcomes * tough when needed, even when treatment is uncomfortable * solid, well organized support staff Thank You Dr. Mehta!
Aaliya Y.
Aaliya Y.
2020-06-09
Verified
I consulted Dr. Mehta after breaking my ankle in December 2019. She was extremely empathetic, knowledgeable, and took her time to explain everything to me so that I had a good understanding of my fracture and management options. She held my hand and got me comfortable with the idea of surgery and allayed my fears. Her office was very responsive, timely and  worked efficiently to help me get my imaging done in an expeditious manner. I highly recommend her for her incredible bedside manner, empathy and level of expertise. She is exactly what you want in your surgeon.
Katrina A.
Katrina A.
2020-02-12
Verified
Life is full of mishaps and great relationships. I had one really big mishap and happily stumbled into a a wonderful relationship. I've been blessed to cross paths with the beautiful professional Dr. Mehta and her wonderful staff. In a time when pain seriously interferes with manners. They were kind and gracious even when I was not. The of staff  everything they we always great.
Mike V.
Mike V.
2020-01-10
Verified
The best! I have been going to Dr Mehta for years and she is second to none! Highly recommend
A T.
A T.
2019-12-01
Verified
This review is long overdue from a very happy and ever so grateful patient! I was having major shoulder pain to the point where I couldn't raise my left shoulder. I decided to go to Dr. Mehta after a friend recommended me to her.  Dr. Mehta was very attentive during our initial apt. She was quickly able to diagnose the root cause of my shoulder issue and explained the how and why I ended up with this pain. Her treatment plan involved me doing various mobility exercises and after two weeks I can honestly say I am at least 50% better. I think a few other Yelp reviewers mentioned this but I have to say it again, Dr Mehta truly cares about her patients and it was very apparent from how she followed up with my recovery. She called and emailed me to make sure I was following the plan and kept up with all my progress. I'm not sure how Dr Mehta finds the time to do all this but after my experience with her, I can say with certainty that she is a very skillful doctor and I have 100% trust in her.
steve k.
steve k.
2019-11-22
Verified
I had a great experience my one time meeting Dr Mehta. She walked me through what the problem was and the course of action to fix it. She laid things out calmly with a step by step of how we get me back to 100% with no future pain. Her calm demeanor and thorough explanation made me feel at ease that everything would work out fine. I followed the steps provided and everything did work out just as she'd laid out. Should something come up again I will definitely be going to Dr Mehta again.
gajan t.
gajan t.
2019-11-19
Verified
I write only a few Yelp reviews a year, and hope that this will help anyone who is trying to find the right orthopedic doctor.  I went to 3 orthopedic doctors when I had a serious knee issue earlier this year. Although, I received good advice from all the doctors, I chose Dr. Mehta because she spent a considerable amount of time helping me to understand the root cause of my knee pain and then created a blueprint moving forward of preventative measures. She was definitely very insightful in her diagnosis and more importantly her treatment. What actually inspired me to really write this yelp review was because of her follow up calls and how much I realized that she really wanted to see me get better. I've been to many good doctors in the bay area but only a handful that offer this much personalized care. I highly recommend Dr. Mehta and happy to talk to anyone about my experience if you trying to decide on an orthopedic doctor.