The human body is a musculoskeletal structure of interconnecting systems, soft tissue, ropes, and pulleys that work together to keep us moving – commonly, these are your muscles, skeleton, joints, and tendons.
While a physical musculoskeletal physiotherapy assessment will highlight any external swelling or tenderness, it might not give a more in-depth internal answer to why someone is experiencing pain.
Common musculoskeletal problems
There is no limit to why you should consult a musculoskeletal screening service if you are experiencing pain, but the following are the most common conditions. They are all related to the connective tissues and are often caused by wear and tear, ageing, inflammation, or autoimmunity.
– Tennis elbow, tendonitis, or ligament damage through a sporting injury.
– Osteoarthritis – inflammation of the joints.
– Arthritis – swelling or tenderness of the joints.
– Rheumatoid arthritis – chronic inflammation of the joints.
– Gout – inflammation of the joints due to an excess of uric acid.
– Fibromyalgia – chronic muscle pain and tenderness.
– Lung cancer – manifested by difficulty in breathing, coughing up blood, hoarseness, headaches, and weight loss.
– Lou Gherig’s disease – a progressive neurological disorder.
– Myasthenia gravis – a neuromuscular disorder.
Why is musculoskeletal ultrasound superior to an MRI?
If you are in a lot of pain, then waiting and worrying will only exacerbate your physical problems. Booking in for a musculoskeletal screening assessment is immediate; you don’t need to be referred by a doctor, and you will get the results on the same day.
While an MRI scan is usually considered superior in terms of the imaging results, it does come with its downsides. It is more expensive (if you go privately), a claustrophobic and isolating experience and the results take several days (if not more) to come through.
During a musculoskeletal ultrasound scan, you interact with the sonographer in real-time and have more freedom to express the discomfort and pain you are experiencing during the scan itself. This makes it a much more interactive and personal approach which will put you more at ease for the whole process.
Can you see arthritis on an ultrasound?
Ultrasound scans are particularly good at detecting earlier signs of erosion to the tendons so that they can pick up conditions such as arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis much earlier than an X-ray. The scan will search for issues such as bone erosion, inflammation and tissue damage and a general deterioration in the joints. Areas of joint inflammation are clearly seen and act as warning signals to the sonographer, who can highlight such issues for further medical exploration.
Can ultrasound show muscle damage?
Ultrasound imaging is particularly effective at picking up signs of swelling and inflammation in soft tissue and joints and highlighting micro tears in muscles.
In fact, it is for this reason that musculoskeletal screening for athletes is becoming more and more popular. When an athlete pulls or strains a muscle, rather than the expense and inconvenience of an X-Ray or MRI, an ultrasound is cheaper and more convenient. It can pick up the smallest bit of damage that can be treated more quickly and effectively than waiting around for further tests and results.
What is a musculoskeletal ultrasound used for?
You can come into our musculoskeletal clinic for sporting injuries, pulled muscles or constant and unexplained aches and pain. The ultrasound scan will check for tendon, muscle and ligament tears or sprains, inflammation, benign and malignant soft tissue tumours, ganglion cysts, hernias, foreign bodies in the soft tissues, and soft tissue lumps.
Time will be taken with your sonographer to explore the area of pain with you, and you will be able to ask questions and direct the sonographer according to your pain and discomfort to really get to the root of the problem.
What happens during a musculoskeletal scan?
When booking your scan, you need to book for the area in which you are experiencing the most pain. Typically, these tend to be focused on your upper or lower limbs, neck and shoulders, hands, and wrists, or in the groin area.
A separate ‘lumps and bumps’ ultrasound scan searches out the cause of any unexplained soft tissue lumps that may have appeared and are concerning you. They may not be painful but are possibly tender to the touch, and early detection as to the cause of the bump or lump will highlight whether it needs treatment or not.
The usual causes of lumps and bumps tend to be ganglion cysts, lipomas, sebaceous cysts, and benign or malignant cancerous lumps. They may also be hernias, masses, cysts, or hematomas.
If you have any concerns about constant and debilitating pain that doesn’t seem to be getting any better, booking in for a musculoskeletal scan will give you a real insight into what could be the root cause of your pain. Our experienced sonographers will talk through the results and prepare a report for your GP should further treatment be necessary.