To X-ray or not to X-ray?

It is the trend these days for chiropractors not to have x-ray machines in their office . Some docs would never dream of adjusting a patient without x-rays and “proof”. For them the cost of x-rays and the radiation exposure is completely justified by their style of care. The other extreme is the doctor who feels like radiation should be avoided always. A lot of doctors just do not want to deal with the cost and hassle of x-rays. If their patient needs imaging, they refer them to an x-ray facility.

For me, it always depends on the situation. I have digital x-rays in my office. It costs me the same to take 100 x-rays as it does to take none, so cost is not a factor. That saying, there are plenty of factors that come into play when deciding to take x-rays on a patient.

First, is there a reasonable need to take x-rays? I do not believe taking x-rays on everyone before adjusting them is necessary. I respect some chiropractors methodology, but I do not adjust people based on x-rays. I take x-rays when a patient has had trauma and I want to rule out fracture or instability or if I suspect a scoliosis or some other malformation. On occasion, I take x-rays because of a gut feeling. I had this experience the other day on a fairly healthy patient who had been seeing other chiropractors for months. I was glad I did when I discovered a condition known as a spondylolisthesis which completely altered my approach to adjusting her.

Conversely, there are significant reasons not to take x-rays. I will never take an x-ray on a female who is or thinks she may be pregnant. I also have a policy in my office that I do not take x-rays of children under the age of 12 unless we need to visualize a scoliosis. Finally, if someone has had a lot of radiation, I try to avoid more exposure.

In general, x-rays do not expose someone to a lot of radiation these days. Nevertheless, they are still radioactive and should be respected. If I feel like a patient can avoid having  x-rays taken, I do my best to avoid them. If you see a chiropractor and want to avoid x-rays or feel like you need them, it is very helpful to let the doctor know why or why not. In most cases you can start care without x-rays. If the treatments are not working and the doctor suspects there may be more insight using x-rays, then do them then.

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