Do You Need Chiropractic X-Rays?
You go to one chiropractor and they tell you they will not start your treatment without full spine x-rays. Then you go to a different chiropractor with the exact same symptoms and they will tell you x-rays are not needed at all. Does it get any more confusing?
In this blog we will explain when you need X-rays and when you don’t, but before we discuss if you need x-rays though, let’s clear up what you can and can’t see on an x-ray.
What can you see on x-rays?
X-rays show us the structure of your spine and vertebra so we can see any damage to your spine such as degeneration or fracture. We can also see the spaces between the bones where the discs sit.
When x-rays are taken standing upright, they show us your posture and the overall shape of your spine allowing us to assess any postural deviation or scoliosis that may be present.
What you cannot see on x-rays?
We can’t clearly see the soft tissue structures, such as the spinal cord, the discs, or the nerves on x-rays. These structures can only be clearly examined on CT scans or MRI’s, which is why you cannot see a bulging disc on an x-ray.
Is it safe to be adjusted without x-rays?
The answer is YES ABSOLUTELY.
In most cases your spinal pain (even acute pain) comes from functional problems within the spine; however, these changes can’t be seen on an x-ray. The great news though, is that spinal functional problems usually respond well to chiropractic adjustments.
Will you be adjusted on your first visit?
Over 90% of our patients are adjusted on their first visit, regardless of whether x-rays are needed or not. Your chiropractic care will start once we know that it is safe to adjust you.
Why do you need x-rays at all?
There are certain conditions that make x-rays extremely important to ensure your treatment is as safe as possible. As Townsville chiropractors, we need to have an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your symptoms, so we can design the safest and best treatment for you.
When are x-rays needed?
X-rays are needed when there are signs of pathology, trauma, or if we feel there may be a structural abnormality that may change our treatment approach. This is the reason we cannot say with certainty that you will be adjusted without X-rays before your initial visit.
X-rays are essential in the following situations:
1. Suspected Pathology
We use the expression “red flags” for things that indicate there may be a pathological cause of your symptoms and, in these cases, an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your symptoms is critical.
The most common red flags we see are:
- a history of major or recent trauma
- pain that lasts more than 4 weeks
- radiating pain that is progressively worse
- progressive loss of neurological function
- history of cancer, night pain, fevers, unexplained weight loss
- a history of bone fracture
- minor trauma in people between ages 50 and 70 years old (due to the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures)
When red flags are present, we will not start your treatment until we know it is safe to do so.
Sometimes we will find indicators of changes in the structure of the spine that need to be investigated to help us obtain an accurate diagnosis.
The most common of these are:
- abnormal curvature of the spine such as a swayback or an abnormally rounded upper back
- postural changes such as uneven shoulders, hips or pelvis, ribs protrude more on one side, body tilt or one shoulder blade protrudes more than the other
We will arrange for spinal x-rays to be taken if we find significant postural or structural changes during your examination, which will show us why these changes are there and help us decide what is the best treatment for you.
What if your x-rays look normal?
X-rays are just 2-dimensional images of your spine, they do not in any way show you how well your spine is functioning. In most cases it is your history and your physical examination that provide the basis of your treatment.
How much do x-rays cost?
Spinal x-rays are fully covered by Medicare so there should be no out of pocket cost to you at all.
Some chiropractors may want to take their own x-rays and charge you for this. You are fully entitled to refuse this service and ask for a referral to a radiology clinic who can bulk bill the x-rays to Medicare.
Are x-rays dangerous?
Spinal x-rays are very safe and unlikely to produce any side effects as the amount of radiation used in modern x-rays is very small, so the risk is minimal.
X-rays are very dangerous to a developing foetus which is why pregnant woman should not be x-rayed unless absolutely necessary.
Our promise to you
We are committed to finding an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your symptoms and designing the best treatment for you. X-rays will only be ordered when they are absolutely necessary and this decision will be made in consultation with you after your spinal examination.
Remember, you do not need to have x-rays to get great results with your chiropractic care.
Your safety is our priority!
Common Conditions That Chiropractic Can Help