Back to body parts
Upper arm

Upper arm

Find Imaging Centers
Medically reviewed for accuracy
3 minutes reading time

Upper Arm MRI

Upper arm pain can be a debilitating condition that affects your ability to perform everyday tasks and enjoy activities you love. Diagnosing the root cause of this pain is essential for effective treatment and recovery. One of the most powerful diagnostic tools available is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An Upper Arm MRI provides detailed images of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones in the upper arm, offering invaluable insights into a variety of conditions. 

This article will cover everything you need to know about Upper Arm MRI, from when it's needed and how to prepare, to what the procedure involves and how it can help diagnose and treat upper arm pain.

What is an Upper Arm MRI and When is it Needed?

An Upper Arm MRI is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the structures within the upper arm. This imaging technique is particularly useful for identifying soft tissue injuries and other abnormalities that may not be visible through traditional X-rays or CT scans.

It is often needed when patients experience persistent upper arm pain, limited mobility, or when other diagnostic methods have failed to provide a clear diagnosis.

Understanding the Different Types of MRI for Upper Arm Pain

There are several types of MRI scans that can be used to diagnose upper arm pain, including:

  • Standard MRI: Provides detailed images of soft tissues, bones, and joints.
  • Functional MRI (fMRI): Measures and maps brain activity related to upper arm movement.
  • MRI with Contrast: Involves injecting a contrast dye to enhance the visibility of specific structures.

Each type has its unique applications and can be selected based on the specific needs of the patient.

Preparing for Your Upper Arm MRI: What to Expect

Preparing for an upper arm MRI involves several key steps:

  1. Medical History: Inform your doctor about any medical conditions, allergies, or implants.
  2. Clothing: Wear loose-fitting, metal-free clothing.
  3. Fasting: Follow any fasting instructions if contrast dye will be used.
  4. Relaxation: If you experience claustrophobia, discuss sedation options with your doctor.

How Upper Arm MRI Can Help Diagnose Your Pain?

Upper arm MRI provides detailed images that help in diagnosing various conditions, such as:

  • Muscle tears and strains: When muscles in your upper arm get overstretched or torn, often causing pain and swelling.
  • Tendon injuries: Damage to the tough, fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones, which can result from overuse or sudden injury.
  • Ligament sprains and tears: Injuries to the strong bands of tissue that connect bones together, often happening when a joint is twisted or overstretched.
  • Bone fractures: Breaks or cracks in the bones of the upper arm, which can be caused by trauma like a fall or accident.
  • Soft tissue abnormalities: Unusual changes or growths in the muscles, fat, or other soft tissues of the upper arm that might need further investigation.

How Does Upper Arm MRI Help in Detecting Soft Tissue Injuries?

Upper arm MRI is a powerful tool for diagnosing injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It provides:

  • Detailed images of soft tissues: MRI scans show clear pictures of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Detection of problems: It can identify issues like inflammation, tears, and other abnormalities.
  • Guidance for treatment: The detailed images help doctors create precise treatment plans.

How Upper Arm MRI Can Detect Tendon Injuries?

Tendon injuries, like tendinitis (inflammation) and tendon tears, are common in the upper arm. MRI is helpful because it:

  • Shows the tendon structure: MRI gives a clear view of the tendons.
  • Detects problems: It can reveal inflammation, degeneration, or tears.
  • Assesses severity: The scan helps doctors understand how bad the injury is.

Identifying Ligament Tears Through Upper Arm MRI

Ligament tears can seriously affect how your arm functions. Upper arm MRI can:

  • Identify tears: It shows if the ligament is partially or completely torn.
  • Assess related injuries: MRI can also detect other issues like bone bruising.
  • Help with surgery planning: If surgery is needed, MRI provides detailed images to guide the procedure.

Does Your Whole Body Go In for an Upper Arm MRI?

For an upper arm MRI, only the affected arm and part of the upper body will be inside the MRI machine. The rest of your body will remain outside, which helps reduce discomfort, especially for those who are claustrophobic.

How Long Does an Upper Arm MRI Take?

An upper arm MRI typically takes between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the complexity of the scan and whether contrast material is used. The procedure involves multiple image sequences to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.

The Difference Between MRI With and Without Contrast for Upper Arm

MRI with contrast involves injecting a gadolinium-based dye into the bloodstream, which enhances the visibility of blood vessels, tumors, and areas of inflammation. MRI without contrast relies solely on the natural magnetic properties of the body's tissues. The choice between the two depends on the specific diagnostic needs.


Upper arm MRI is a powerful diagnostic tool that offers detailed insights into various conditions affecting the upper arm. From muscle tears and tendon injuries to ligament sprains and maybe bone issues, MRI provides comprehensive images that guide accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans. 

By understanding the importance and capabilities of upper arm MRI, patients can make informed decisions about their healthcare and take proactive steps toward pain relief and recovery.

If you are experiencing pain or other issues, remember to see your doctor!

Consider scheduling an upper arm MRI to get the answers you need. Visit GetScanned today to book your MRI appointment and take the first step toward understanding and alleviating your pain.

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
Book a GP consultation

Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

Still have questions?

Can't see an answer to your question? Our friendly customer care team are happy to help.

Contact Us
Get Scanned Today
Search scan center