If you’ve considered a visit to a chiropractor, you may hear about our use of radiographic examination (x-rays) in determining whether or not we can start to do chiropractic adjustments.
Do you really need the x-rays? What are we looking for anyway? Isn’t everyone “messed up” and you find something on x-rays all the time anyway? These are all good and reasonable questions that I’ll attempt to answer here in addressing the need for a radiographic examination.
“Do you really need the x-rays? What are you looking for anyway?” In our office, we don’t do any x-rays unless they’re absolutely necessary. However, we do find them to be necessary in most of the patients that walk through the door.
Most patients have at least some risk factors that should be ruled out before proceeding with chiropractic care. Every time I start to think we don’t need to do x-rays, we find something on a patient that we never would have found otherwise. It was only because of our radiographic examination that we were able to safely care for that patient.
Do we need a radiographic examination on every patient?
That means we’re not going to do x-rays on every patient, nor are we going to do x-ray examinations on all areas of the spine if we don’t see a reason to do that. During the x-ray examination, we’ll be looking for how your spine is aligned and for anything going on inside of you that would stop us from being able to work on you.
Every time I start to get even a small doubt about the reasonableness of taking x-rays, we’ll find something that completely changes either how we would treat someone or if we can help them at all.
For example, a recent x-rays found a large, aggressive tumor on a patient’s hip. They had been under care by several other doctors that evaluated through x-ray and MRI his lumbar spine. This was a completely reasonable route of diagnosis, but they never took a look at his hip since they believed the pain was coming from the nerves associated with the low back.
Since chiropractors are interested in the pelvis in addition to the lumbar spine, we took a slightly different x-ray that included the hip joints. This revealed the source of his pain and we were able to make that referral immediately.
“Isn’t everyone “messed up” and you find something on radiographic examination all the time anyway?”
Yes, it’s very likely that we will find “something” on your x-rays when we take them. Since we only take x-rays on those we feel absolutely need them, we are expecting to find something. We don’t usually expect to find pathology like cancer or tumors, but we are looking for biomechanical alignment and potential osteoarthritis or spinal degeneration.
These types of findings will give us a good way of determining how long the patient has had the problem (not necessarily just the symptom) and how long it will take to get them back to as normal as possible.
Also, since most patients don’t come to our office unless they’re experiencing a problem, we do tend to see more x-rays that have some sort of finding. Pain-free people that feel 100% rarely visit a doctor of any kind, so we just don’t get to see many normal x-rays.
X-rays can be a very important part of determining the cause of your symptom and making sure it’s safe to work on you. The goal in our office is to only accept those patients we believe we can help. Some serious underlying problems will prevent us from being able to accept you as a patient in our office. It’s worth the time, energy, and effort to see what’s going on with you.