It can sound like common sense, if your back hurts, we should take a x-ray to see what’s going on. In reality, however, x-rays usually provide very little insight as to why your back is actually hurting, and although it is useful for simply ruling out rare bone deformities, fractures, and certain cancers, you are also exposing yourself to harmful radiation.
Recognizing that these conditions are so rare, it makes sense to skip the x-ray as a first step. Unnecessary radiation exposure can have harmful side effects, along with increasing your chances of getting certain diseases and cancers. Not only that, but x-rays are only good for showing your bone structure- they do not show your discs, joints, muscles, or ligaments!
So how do we figure out why your back hurts? Years of research and studies have been aimed at figuring out the best tests that your chiropractor or other health care provider can perform to get a very good idea of why your back hurts. By loading your muscles and joints in different directions, I am able to have a fairly high level of confidence in diagnosing everything from a disc herniation or joint pain to an instability causing a spasm. Also, since the treatments for all these common low back pain conditions are such low risk and non-invasive, it’s worth trying a few treatments to see if you’re recovering as expected or if something like a x-ray or MRI is needed for further investigation.
X-rays are very useful to help rule out some serious diseases and cancers that could be hidden from sight and cause side effects like pain or discomfort- but with a good patient history and examination, your chiropractor can figure out if gentle and non-invasive treatment should be tried first, or if you should get a x-ray right away. When a patient don’t respond to treatment the way we expect, that’s when the exposure to radiation becomes a necessary risk with a x-ray. The x-ray can be a great cost-effective way to rule out certain diseases, but for most of us, it makes sense to save your time, money and radiation exposure, and visit someone who treats and helps a lot of low back pain patients… like a chiropractor!