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What Are X-Rays Used For?

At Cole Pain Therapy Group, we use x-rays to assist in the diagnosis of certain pains and to evaluate a youth with scoliosis.  Talking with your doctor of chiropractic about your pain’s onset, quality, timing, location, exacerbation  and improvement, allows the doctor to come to a very good idea about what is causing the pain.  Occasionally, spine/joint pain is secondary to certain serious conditions, such as arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, bone fractures, and joint dislocations.  Not everyone needs an x-ray examination. Depending on the specifics of the problem, an x-ray examination may be a helpful tool to confirm the diagnosis or rule out complicating factors.  Following this detective work, your doctor will discuss the problem and your options.

So what is X-ray? 

lumbar x-ray

Side view of lumbar spine.

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation used to create images of bones, joints, and soft tissue structures inside the body.  The x-ray machine shines the x-rays towards the body part, like a flash on a camera.  The bones block the x-rays from exposing the film, so an image of the bones form. (Think of shadow puppets on a wall).  The x-ray image looks like a set of shadows on a computer screen that shows bones as white, air as black, and soft tissues as varying shades of gray.

EMSpec

What Does the X-ray Procedure Include?

Each type of x-ray procedure has its own specific preparation, depending on the area of the body that needs to be examined. Here are a few basic things to remember when having an x-ray taken—your doctor or x-ray technician will also remind you of these:

• If you are a woman, tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. The doctor will also likely ask about your last menstrual period to assure that it is safe to take the radiographs.

• Remove any clothing over the part of the body to be x-rayed. If necessary, you will be given a gown or shorts to make sure you are comfortable.

• Remove all jewelry from the body part to be x-rayed. The metal in the jewelry may obscure the image.

Our x-ray machine in action.

Our x-ray machine in action.

Depending on the examined body area, you may be sitting near a table in the radiography suite or standing near a film-holding device. The doctor or technician will measure the body part and place it into a position that will provide the best image. He or she then will aim the x-ray tube at the proper body region and tell you what position to hold and how to breathe.

When the x-ray machine is activated, you may hear some whirring and beeps, which are a normal part of the procedure. Unless instructed otherwise by your doctor, you should remain perfectly still. If your movements distort the image, the x-ray may need to be retaken. Usually, at least two views of a body part are taken at different angles. In some cases, more views may be necessary. Your doctor will perform only the minimum number of views that are necessary.

The computer that processes the image.

The computer that processes the image, saves it to the electronic health record, and sends it to the radiologist.

As with other medical procedures, x-rays are safe when used with care. Your doctor and x-ray technician have been trained to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain the needed results. The amount of radiation used in most examinations is very small and the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of harm.

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