Are Chiropractic X-rays Really Necessary?


Every so often, a prospective patient wants to know if they really need x-rays.  This is an important question for us to address because not all chiropractors use x-ray in their practice.  X-rays are a standard part of our NeuroStructural Chiropractic examination, just as they are standard procedure for a dental visit.  In a dental setting, patients understand that periodic x-rays of their teeth give the doctor valuable information about the structure, alignment and overall health of the teeth.  A dentist's x-rays eliminate any need for guesswork, and actually increase the safety of the patient and the quality of care.  The same is true in our office.

Many people are concerned with the radiation exposure associated with x-ray.  This is, of course, a legitimate concern, so let's take a minute to address it.  Radiation from x-rays used for diagnostic purposes (as we use them in our practice) is measured in milliseiverts (mSv), and the dose a person receives is called the effective dose.  Different tissues in the body have varying degrees of sensitivity to radiation exposure, and the term effective dose is used as an average risk over the entire body.

To provide a frame of reference, we are exposed to radiation from natural sources all the time.  The average person growing up in North America receives an effective dose of about 2mSv per year from cosmic radiation (atmospheric - like UV rays) as well as naturally present radioactive materials.  Altitude also plays a role, but the largest source of background radiation exposure comes from radon gas in our homes.  Much like a cut on your finger, your body tissues can and do heal naturally from the "wound" created by an x-ray, as long as the exposure is neither too large nor too frequent.  Applying this to our practice, the specific NeuroStructural views we take of the neck amount to 0.2mSv. To put this into perspective, it's about the equivalent of just over 6 weeks' worth of what you'd normally be exposed to from your natural surroundings. This exposure is small enough to be easily handled by your body. 

You might still be wondering why we even need x-rays in the first place. Well, there are two things that matter most to us: your health and our reputation. Those things are tied together, and we don't do anything to jeopardize either one of them. Taking x-rays is the most effective way for us to properly visualize your spine, allowing us to deliver the most specific, effective, and personalized care available. Our digital x-ray is state-of-the-art, which minimizes the exposure while providing us with the highest resolution images available.  We utilize these images to customize care for each of our patients, while maintaining an extremely high standard of quality and safety.