There are many different components to chiropractic care, any many doctors believe that x-rays have their rightful place in that line of care. Some doctors, however, disagree that x-rays have any type of a place. Most doctors agree that the level of chiropractic care required is often part of the determining factor as to whether a patient needs any x-rays or not.
If a patient comes in for chiropractic care with severe pain, many doctors will opt to take a full set of x-rays right off the bat. This can be standard for figuring out where the spine needs to be adjusted, or it can also be used to rule out larger issues, such as a spinal tumor or a fractured bone. Once the x-rays are taken, the chiropractor can then see what needs to be done to bring the patient some relief. However, not all patients really need to have these x-rays taken as part of their standard chiropractic care. Those that are simply coming in for a routine adjustment of the spine rarely need to be exposed to the potential dangers associated with x-rays.
There are a few specific times where a chiropractor should be taking x-rays of the patient before treatment. If you are seeing someone that recently experienced some type of traumatic accident, x-rays should be standard procedure to rule out injuries related to the initial accident. If you find an injury from that accident, it could help provide clues to how to finally get some relief from the pain. If the chiropractor believes that some type of an infection could be causing the pain in the patient, then he or she should also have x-rays taken. This can show up on an x-ray in many different forms, but it also allows for the patient to get started on antibiotics as quickly as possible to alleviate the pain.
If a doctor suspects that their patient is seeking out chiropractic care because of possible cancer, or a similar type of disease, then x-rays would be standard procedure. This allows both the doctor and the patient to see exactly what the causes might be, enabling both to create a chiropractic care plan. The same goes for patients that are suffering due to arthritis. Each case of arthritis is unique, as is the damage it causes. Seeing how much inflammation and damage is there allows for the proper techniques to be used for the patient.
The older a patient seeking chiropractic care, the more common it is for the chiropractor to take x-rays. This is especially true if the patient has, or may have, osteoporosis. This causes malformations as the bones deteriorate, which can easily be seen on x-rays. If there is already instability in or immediately surrounding the spine, then one should also have x-rays prior to starting chiropractic care. This will allow the chiropractor and the patient to see how extensive the damage is, giving a good baseline for care to begin. Finally, if the patient has been under another type of medical treatment but not experiencing any type of pain relief, the chiropractor should take x-rays before starting any type of chiropractic care.
When a patient comes to a chiropractor seeking chiropractic care for muscle pain, x-rays are typically entirely unnecessary. X-rays are designed to see bony malformations, fractures, or problems within joints. They are not designed to see issues with muscles or other types of soft tissue. If the pain originates from within a muscle, then x-rays will not show anything on them, and could contradict the chiropractic care plan that the patient undergoes. The same thing goes if the patient has the potential to be pregnant. X-rays could potentially harm an unborn child, and should be avoided at all costs.
The other time that x-rays should be avoided prior to chiropractic care is if there is no real reason to take them other than to explore potential causes of pain. If the chiropractor is unsure of what could be causing the pain, there are other diagnostics that he or she could order first that would pose less of a threat to the patient. Chiropractors should have a pretty good idea of what they are looking for, or hoping to avoid seeing, should they request x-rays on a patient.
X-rays should only be taken if there is a valid reason to take them. Taking them for every person that walks through the door for chiropractic care is not a good idea, and those chiropractors should be avoided. The entire point of getting chiropractic care is to help remove pain from a patient’s life, not add in unnecessary risk.