Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why do Chiropractors use X-rays?

Chiropractors have been making use of x-rays for a number of years.  In fact, the advent of x-rays and chiropractic were in the same year, 1895.  In chiropractic school, one of the first set of courses that we get started on is how to read x-rays.  But why do so many chiropractors use x-rays?  Do all chiropractors use x-rays?  And is it safe?

First of all, not all chiropractors take x-rays and some chiropractors take a lot of x-rays.  Now, I can only speak for myself, but I fall somewhere in the middle.  My main reasons for taking x-rays on a patient is to rule out any serious condition that may need treatment from another professional, and also to get a physical picture of the alignment of the spine.  In some cases, just doing the consultation and examination may not give me all of the information I need, so I take x-rays.  This allows me to help the patient better visualize what their spine looks like as well.

Some chiropractors practice techniques that require them to take more x-rays than I do.  Some even like to take x-rays before an adjustment and after an adjustment.  This, for their technique, may allow them to see the changes that have happened following the treatment.  Personally, I don't use techniques that require that many x-rays because of safety issues that may be present.

With the advent of the new body scanners in the airports (which you can opt out of, by the way), there has been more focus on the amount of radiation that a person receives.  It is true that x-rays use waves of energy that penetrate your body using minimal radiation.  The waves that pass through your body show up as the darker areas on the x-ray and the whiter areas are where the waves didn't pass through the body as well. 

When I am x-raying a patient, I will maybe take two sets of x-rays, which equates to a couple normal days of radiation.  You see, when you are just walking about, living life, your body is soaking up radiation from our daily environment.  One set of x-rays is equivolent to about a day's worth of normal radiation.  So you see, it's really quite minimal.  The problem is when you are getting multiple sets of x-rays or going through the body scanners often at an airport.  That little bit adds up and may lead to problems in the future.

So what I'm really trying to say is this:  I use x-rays in my practice on a minimal basis to 1) rule out any serious conditions, 2) visualize the alignment of the spine more specifically, and 3) allow the patient to physically see their spine.  Since chiropractors mainly work with the spine, it sometimes helps to see the spine and give the patient a little input as to what their spine looks like.

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