Using X-Ray as a diagnostic tool
Like many other healthcare professionals, chiropractors follow particular protocols when assessing, evaluating and treating their patients. When you come to our clinic for a chiropractic evaluation, our doctors will do the following before coming up with a treatment plan or protocol specifically for you:
- Subjective observations
- Objective observations
- Putting the pieces together
- Arriving at a “corrective care” course of treatment
Healthcare practitioners cannot determine your treatment plan until the sum of the subjective and objective observations add up to a solid diagnosis. Then we will know better how to help you.
How Chiropractors Interpret X-Ray Images
Although the chiropractic field of practice is holistic, chiropractors strongly focus on musculoskeletal conditions that are better defined by x-ray imaging. You may be suffering from chronic low back pain; and the subjective and objective observations during the chiropractic exam may suggest you have one or more misalignments of the vertebrae resulting in strain on some of your nerves. But then your doctor must rule out any unknown conditions such as fractures, disease states, etc. that might interfere with or negate moving forward with chiropractic treatments.
What chiropractors are looking for when they evaluate x-ray images is how the skeletal structure appears and whether it can be balanced for the purpose of providing relief and improving overall health, as well as quality of life.
Are X-Rays Absolutely Necessary?
While not all cases will require x-rays for a chiropractic diagnosis or to create a suitable treatment plan, we do x-ray a majority of patients, especially if you have not had recent imaging done. It should be noted that the type of x-ray images done by chiropractors are often different than those ordered by other healthcare practitioners. Whenever possible, chiropractors prefer to look at images that are taken when patients are standing up rather than in a prone or supine position since the goal is to get an idea of how the patient’s posture and weight may be playing a role in any skeletal displacement.
Patients who have a history of cancer can definitely expect x-ray imaging to be done since we must rule out the presence of abnormalities on or around the vertebrae. A history of scoliosis or other abnormal curvatures of the spine will also benefit from a closer look. This means getting x-rays.
When X-Rays Need to be Taken More Than Once
When a treatment plan requires spinal manipulation, both the doctor and patient will be able to notice improvement by evaluating x-rays taken again after a series of adjustments are completed. Also, if you develop a different type of discomfort during or after your initial adjustments, it could be that secondary issues have developed and need new focus.
How X-Rays Work
X-ray is a type of electromagnetic energy that allows beams to pass through soft tissue. To a degree, x-rays are similar to the waves of wireless communication. However, the beams are projected and reflected for the purpose of viewing internal anatomy. While x-rays are able to make it through soft tissue, they bounce back when reflected on surfaces such as teeth and bone. This is why those areas appear white on x-ray film or with digital imaging. Nerves, ligaments, connective tissue, and muscle are displayed in a spectrum of gray.
What Patients Can Expect from Chiropractic X-Ray Examinations
As a diagnostic tool, x-rays are non-invasive. They do not create discomfort for the patient. Should you not be able to stand during the procedure, you may have the option to lie down on the x-ray table, but this seldom is necessary. Patients who are concerned about high levels of radiation coming from x-ray equipment should know that technology has advanced to the point of reducing this risk to being negligible.