A radiograph is basically also known as an X-ray, where it is a picture of the bones. It does not show good evaluation of the nerves or of the soft tissue rather really just a picture of the bones themselves. But the diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made based upon radiographic findings (what we see on an X-ray) so it's specific for that and can tell us not only if there is the presence of arthritis but also the degree of that type of arthritis.

When we’re looking at any kind of muscle, ligament, tendon, or other soft tissue injury, then usually we will order an MRI for suspecting that the injury is coming from any of the soft tissue including muscles, tendons, ligaments. If there’s any suspicion of another source for the hip pain as well in terms of the back for instance which can commonly come along with the hip pain, then we would do — order an MRI of the lower back, more specifically the lumbar — lumbosacral spine.

If we are suspicious for any type of tear in the cartilage of the joint — of the hip joint, also known as a labral tear, then a specific test for that would be to do an MRI with an arthrogram. Where you can put a little bit of lidocaine, which is anesthetic, into the joint — the hip joint itself. And that is both diagnostic and as well can be therapeutic after seeing if the lidocaine made any difference in the patient’s symptoms.

Doctors may use imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and arthrograms to diagnose the cause of hip pain in a patient. This video provides an overview of diagnostic imaging tests for hip pain.

Dr. Ana Bracilovic is a physiatrist at the Princeton Spine and Joint Center, where she has more than a decade of experience specializing in the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of spine, joint, and muscle pain. Dr. Bracilovic has been published peer-reviewed journals.