If you have knee pain that isn’t getting better, should you get an MRI to find out if you have a meniscus tear, cartilage damage, arthritis or some other problem? What is the role of MRI for knee pain?
I am having an MRI tomorrow on my knee. I had an X-ray the other day, and all it showed was arthritis. But the pain I am now having was caused by the simple movement of turning to see where my son was. My knee snapped (not popped), and the pain was extreme. I hobbled back to the car. Just additional information: I have been told I have fibromyalgia, an autoimmune disease, and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. So my question is – should I still have the MRI? I went through 10 days of anti inflammatory without relief.
I cannot address Connie’s situation specifically, as I haven’t examined her or reviewed her x-rays, but I understand this clinical dilemma. I unfortunately see similar presentations frequently.
One major concern after a twisting injury to the knee is a meniscus tear. In young athletes, meniscal tears often require significant trauma. As adults get older, they can often tear a meniscus with seemingly less serious events, such as squatting to pick up an object or turning to change directions.
In many of these patients, pre-existing arthritis is noted in the knee on preliminary x-rays. It is certainly possible that the new twisting event simply flared up the arthritis. On the other hand, it is possible that the motion injured the meniscus between the femur and tibia. An MRI for knee pain to look for such a tear might be reasonable in several clinical scenarios. For example, if a patient’s pain after one of these events is noticeably different and increased, if the pain localizes to a very specific point on the medial (inside) or lateral (outside) side of the knee, or if the knee is locking or catching, MRI studies can play a diagnostic role.
If a degenerative meniscus tear is found in a knee with articular cartilage changes (osteoarthritis), then treatment decisions can be tricky. Please refer to a previous Ask Dr. Geier column I wrote on surgical and nonsurgical options for a degenerative meniscus tear. Please also refer to a three-part series I wrote about the use of x-rays and MRIs for knee problems, as I discuss their use in these situations.
Discover The Solution To Your Biggest Knee Injury Challenge Even If You Have No Medical Knowledge and You’ve Looked Everywhere and Haven’t Been Able To Find an Answer!
Click here to learn more!
Recommended Products and Resources
Click here to go to Dr. David Geier’s Amazon Influencer store!
Due to a large number of questions I have received over the years asking about products for health, injuries, performance, and other areas of sports, exercise, work and life, I have created an Amazon Influencer page. While this information and these products are not intended to treat any specific injury or illness you have, they are products I use personally, have used or have tried, or I have recommended to others. THE SITE MAY OFFER HEALTH, FITNESS, NUTRITIONAL AND OTHER SUCH INFORMATION, BUT SUCH INFORMATION IS DESIGNED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE CONTENT DOES NOT AND IS NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY MEDICAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. THE SITE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ACTIONS OR INACTION ON A USER’S PART BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT IS PRESENTED ON THE SITE. Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.