The use of x-rays in chiropractic care is a topic of debate. While spinal x-rays are often considered standard for initial evaluations, many musculoskeletal issues that chiropractors treat are mechanical and do not show up on x-rays. These issues can often be resolved with manipulation or mobilization treatments. It may be more reasonable to first try chiropractic care and only consider x-rays if symptoms persist.
For more complex conditions, initial x-ray analysis may be required.
X-rays as diagnostic tools
Similar to other healthcare providers, chiropractors have a specific approach that they follow to treat their patients. When you visit a chiropractic clinic for an evaluation, the practitioners will typically follow a specific workflow that includes:
- Subjective observations
- Objective observations
- Planning of treatment
The subjective observation will consist mostly of interview questions; it starts with your complaint plus the reasons that prompted you to seek chiropractic care. The objective observations are part of the physical exam, and the chiropractor may request x-ray imaging as part of this process. Healthcare practitioners cannot advance to the next step, the assessment, until they are satisfied that the sum of the subjective and objective observations can add up to a solid diagnosis.
Are x-rays safe in chiropractic offices?
According to chiropractic professionals, there are no negative effects of diagnostic X-rays in their offices. The estimated radiation exposure to a patient during plain X-ray examinations of the spine is 0.2, 1.0, and 1.5 mSv for the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions, respectively . Studies have not shown evidence of a carcinogenic effect for acute irradiation at doses less than 100 mSv or for protracted irradiation at doses less than 500 mSv . The American College of Radiology also states that adverse health outcomes for radiation doses below 100 mSv are not supported by evidence . In chiropractic practice, it would require a significant amount of x-rays in a single encounter or over a protracted time to cause any adverse effects. However, neither of these circumstances occur in chiropractic practices as the safe use of radiation is emphasized in chiropractors’ doctoral training and only…