Chiropractor & X-Ray's


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It is not uncommon for a chiropractor to take x-rays during the examination of a patient. However, it is not necessary for every client who enters the clinic as x-rays only show certain issues, such as spinal misalignment. As x-rays can be harmful, especially if overused, there are certain guidelines in place to restrict their usage. Thanks to these guidelines, it may not be totally necessary for you to have an x-ray, however, this examination method may be recommended by your chiropractor.

When x-rays should be administered by chiropractors

X-rays should not be used as a routine procedure used during diagnosis by a chiropractor due to them emitting ionising radiation which can be harmful, especially if exposed to it regularly over time. Chiropractors tend to use x-rays to look for vertebrae misalignment (or subluxation), as many believe that this is the common cause of numerous health conditions. This can often lead to the overuse of this particular diagnostic tool as the chiropractor scrutinises each part of your spine using the x-ray machine.

To prevent the overuse of x-rays - and therefore limit the bodily harm caused by them – chiropractors should only take x-rays if the symptoms displayed by the patient are strongly associated with the spine. In such cases, x-rays can be useful in identifying and locating incorrect vertebrae positioning, which may be the cause of the symptoms.

If you approach a chiropractor with a localised issue, such as neck pain, and they suggest taking an x-ray, you should check that they are only taking the x-ray of the area you are consulting them about. This ensures that no unnecessary x-rays are being taken of parts of your body that show no symptoms, and therefore limits the amount of ionising radiation that you are exposed to.

If your chiropractor does take an x-ray of your spine, it is then unnecessary to do so again for the next few years unless pain persists throughout or a new problem develops. If you change chiropractors, be sure to collect your x-ray films from your previous one so they can analyse them and so you are not subjected to more x-rays of the same area and same problem as this exposes you to excessive radiation.

In many cases, the pain and/or discomfort can be identified with a physical exam and observation, rather than having to resort to x-rays. X-rays rarely highlight where the source of pain is actually located and so are invaluable the majority of the time. If there is a more serious problem and both you and your chiropractor agree that an x-ray would be beneficial, you should consider getting one done by a trained radiologist instead. This ensures that you are only exposed to the necessary amount of radiation and often the picture is clearer and of a better quality. The radiologist can then compose a report that you can show to your chiropractor.

Incorrect x-ray use

If the symptoms being displayed are not related to the spine, x-rays should be avoided, as it is less likely that the pain or discomfort is being cause by subluxations of vertebrae. If, however, the symptoms do indicate a spinal problem you should ensure that the chiropractor does not take a full-spine x-ray. A full-spine x-ray involves taking a picture so it fits onto one piece of film. These can be very harmful as they require a large amount of radiation and the cost-benefit results are low. It is fairly rare that a full-spine x-ray will highlight the condition causing the problems as they lack detail; therefore, the massive dose of radiation is often administered for no beneficial reason.

If it is your first month of treatment with a chiropractor, you should probably not be given an x-ray, as it is unnecessary. Only if there are strong indications of a fracture, disease or other serious condition, should an x-ray be administered and in this case, you should probably undergo it at a hospital where subsequent and effective treatment can be provided. Therefore, if you are in your first month of treatment and your problem doesn’t seem too serious but your chiropractor wants to take an x-ray, you should seek advice from a medical professional, such as you doctor, to question whether it is appropriate and/or beneficial.

Also, there are only two angles from which an x-ray should be taken when examining the lower back area. These angles are from the front and from the side. Any other view does not tend to show the problems, as the view is oblique. This means that if your chiropractor takes an x-ray from a view other than front or side, you are being exposed to radiation without reasonable justification.

Some chiropractors charge their patients for taking x-rays, therefore, ensure that your chiropractor can justify exactly why the x-ray will benefit your treatment so you know that they are not just taking it for financial gain. However, it is advised to avoid chiropractors that offer free x-rays, as sometimes they tell the patient that there is an issue that requires x-amount of treatments, however, it is not really there. This means the chiropractor benefits financially from “treating” an invisible problem.


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