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Ankle and knee imaging

Although these injuries are often painful and uncomfortable, they can usually be managed with rest, ice, support and a gradual return to physical activity.

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The ankle and knee are joints located in the lower leg. Injuries to these joints are very common reasons why people visit their GP or physiotherapist. Injuries that frequently affect these joints include ligament sprains, muscle and tendon strains, and damage to the meniscus (cartilage) in the knee. Although these injuries are often painful and uncomfortable, they can usually be managed with rest, ice, support and a gradual return to physical activity.

In some cases, such as when the cause of the injury is unclear or the damage to the joint is complex, an imaging test, such as an X-ray, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be recommended. However, research shows that in most cases of acute ankle and knee sprain/strain, having an X-ray or MRI does not change the treatment you receive or how fast you recover. In addition, having an X-ray you don’t need may expose you to unnecessary radiation. In fact, for many sprains affecting the ankles and knees, taking a history and examining the joint is all that your health professional will need to do to determine the diagnosis and guide management.

Factsheets

Ankle sprains: 10 things to know

Read 10 things you should know about ankle sprains on the NPS MedicineWise website to help you get back moving as usual.

Different types of medical imaging

There are several types of medical imaging tests, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Read Know your imaging options on the NPS MedicineWise website to be informed about your medical imaging test and talk to your health professional about any questions or concerns you may have.

Questions you can ask about medical imaging

Imaging can be very useful in helping to diagnose the cause of your symptoms, but is not always necessary. Read Talking to your health professional about imaging on the NPS MedicineWise website to be well informed about your imaging and ask your doctor any questions you may have.

For more information: Health Navigator

It’s OK to ask questions
If you have questions about your symptoms or the medicines managing your symptoms, speak with your health professional.

You can also download this information as a pdf (411 KB).

Adapted from NPS MedicineWise (2016), Ankle and knee imaging. Reasonable care is taken to provide accurate information at the time of creation. This information is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and should not be exclusively relied on to manage or diagnose a medical condition. NPS MedicineWise and Choosing Wisely New Zealand do not assume any responsibility or liability arising from any error or omission or from reliance on any information in this resource.

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Choosing Wisely

This article is part of our content on Choosing Wisely, a campaign encouraging a change in thinking by health professionals and consumers to avoid unnecessary medical intervention.

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