You’re probably happy when your medical practitioner tells you that you don’t need a spinal X-ray. After all, X-rays expose you to radiation, and they eat up precious time in your busy schedule. But if you know a chiropractor who never bothers to take X-rays – run as fast as you can to another chiropractor! X-rays may not always be necessary, but in most cases, they’re an extremely important part of the diagnostic protocol.

First and foremost, X-rays give me additional data. The greatest palpation techniques in the world can only be enhanced by an actual picture of the spinal structures. When I can see the full extent of a disc herniation, bone spur, subluxation, or pinched nerve root, I know exactly where and how to apply the most efficient adjustment possible. Back X-rays, for instance, can reveal issues such as lumbar fractures and other sources of severe backaches.

But X-rays can also reveal things that ordinary manual evaluations can’t – things that could literally make the difference between life and death. For example, if you came to me with back pain, and I proceeded to make adjustments without knowing about that undetected aortic aneurysm waiting to rupture in your chest, I could be putting your life at needless risk. As chiropractors, we must take the necessary steps to understand your overall health and any underlying risk factors before we make a single adjustment.

Does that mean that every chiropractic visit requires back X-rays? No. It’s quite possible that the initial X-ray taken for diagnosis may be the only one necessary. But when it’s time to investigate hidden causes of pain and other symptoms, spinal X-rays are an absolute must.