Why do Chiropractors take X-rays?

Once upon a time, it was far from standard for Chiropractors to take X-rays – many practitioners relied on a manual assessment of the spine alone. Today, however, any reputable chiropractor should offer you an X-Ray before beginning treatment – and here’s why!


Why do chiropractors take X-rays?

While there are (Sadly) some chiropractors who still don’t take X-rays, either to save money or because they are not qualified to do so, it’s also the case that you don’t usually get more than one or two x-rays throughout the course of a chiropractic care program, so why don’t you get an X-ray at each treatment?

Since Chiropractors are highly trained specialists, it’s usually possible to asses spinal misalignments through palpitation or even just sight, and once your chiropractor already has detailed notes on your condition this is usually more than enough to make a quick assessment of your condition at each appointment.

While visual or manual assessment of the spine might clue a chiropractor in on an area of focus or allow us to see how your treatment is progressing, it does little to quantify the exact nature of the misalignment, and obviously cannot provide the highly detailed 3D picture offered by an X-ray. This is why reputable chiropractors often rely on manual or visual methods for the ongoing monitoring, but X-ray films are the gold standard for initial diagnosis since they provide qualitative and quantitative data that can be leveraged into a highly customized treatment solution.

For example, rotation of the C6 and C7 vertebrae can be felt through palpitation. But to what degree are they rotated? And, moreover, is this rotation accompanied by any lateral movement? If so, to what degree? Through films, a chiropractor can juxtapose a physical image of this affected area against an ideal spine model to qualify what they may already know to be a problem.

At Complete Chiropractic, we take this as a step further – as a Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) clinic we have an interest in optimising your posture, gait and overall health going forward, so for us taking X-rays also provides an opportunity to spot very small misalignments or imbalances, which can be addressed well before you even notice them!


X-rays rule out complex conditions

The vast majority of patients we see at our clinic suffer from one of a handful of common problems which are at the root of many different types of pain – however, in some cases common symptoms such as back pain, or neck pain could be a symptom of a more serious underlying problem such as Scoliosis. Our sister clinic, the UK Scoliosis client is well placed to assist patients with more complex needs – but it’s critical that these kinds of conditions are spotted and treated early. In fact, misdiagnosis of a complex condition can serve to make it worse – a scoliosis case, for example, requires specialist scoliosis treatment – the usual chiropractic treatment could actually make the condition worse. Taking X-rays allow us to make the right diagnosis right at the start of treatment.


X-Rays provide proof of the effect

At Complete Chiropractic, we base our approach on quantifiable progress for patients. While a reduction in your perceived pain is a substantial market for this, it’s also important to have visual evidence of the effect of your treatment. If desired, before and after films of their spine enable patients to see their treatment in action!

Importantly, X-rays also offer a record of adjustment and wellness. They become part of a patient’s history and provide valuable insight when it comes to future issues. As an example, films outlining a herniated lumbar disc from years past may yield insight into how to treat sciatica pain in the present.


Avoid “radiation-free imaging”

At Complete Chiropractic, we have a brand-new state of the art digital X-ray machine on site for instant (and accurate) results – other clinics might refer you to another provider to get X-rays taken in advance of your consultation, but this is slower for the patient.

While some clinics (which we would avoid) don’t use any kind of imaging, other clinics now offer what is often marketed as “radiation-free imaging” – this simply means they do not provide X-rays and use an alternative, less effective imaging method. In real terms, this means that practitioners simply cannot get as good a picture of what is going on with the spine, which increases the risk of treatment failure, misdiagnosis or even injury from inappropriate treatment.

But are X-rays dangerous? The short answer is a handful of X-rays are far less risky and expensive than a long course of ineffective treatment, or a botched treatment which could eventually lead to surgery or a life of pain.

The longer answer is that in fact, we are all exposed to a small amount of background radiation every day without ill effect. For context, an average lumbar X-ray exposes you to only about as much radiation as 2 months of normal background radiation in the UK. An average airline pilot is exposed to about an eighth as much radiation as an x-ray on each transatlantic flight, meaning that most pilots are exposed to about the same amount of radiation as found in your x-ray every other week.


Blog by / March 22, 2019 / Blog

Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007