That’s a fair question to ask as a patient. In some branches of health care, such as dentistry or orthopedics, x-rays are routine and are performed without any doubts or questions. Patients understand that without x-rays, the dentist or orthopedic surgeon would be flying blind, and the quality and safety of the procedure would be compromised.
However, in other branches of health care such as chiropractic, the use of x-rays is debatable. In fact, the majority of chiropractors do not take x-rays as a standard practice. So when a patient enters a Specific Chiropractic Center and discovers that x-rays are a standard practice for all cases, naturally they have a few questions.
For most patients, the questions arise from the fear of receiving too much radiation and increasing their risk of cancer. Although that fear is valid – excessive exposure to ionizing radiation (like x-rays) can increase the risk of cancer – once our patients understand the clinical need for x-rays, and the actual dosage they receive, their fears are quickly put to rest.
Let’s quickly address the fear of increased cancer risk first. X-rays are form of radiant energy, like light or radio waves, but x-rays have the ability to penetrate body. X-rays occur in nature (called “background” radiation) and most commonly come from cosmic radiation (space) and radioactive materials (most commonly from radon gas). Therefore we are always exposed to them at some level. The dosage is most commonly measured in millisieverts (mSv).
The damage caused by x-rays is like a wound in the sense that, with time, the body can fully heal and recover. So a large dose of radiation from x-rays can be tolerated as long as it’s not too frequent. And a small dose of x-rays can be tolerated on a more frequent basis. To put things in perspective, one chest x-ray exposes a person to 0.1 mSv, which is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure they would experience from their natural surroundings in 10 days.
The x-rays we take at The Specific Chiropractic Center are of the cervical spine (neck) and amount to roughly 0.5 mSv, which is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure you would get from your natural surroundings in about 2 months.,
Lastly, let’s address why we need to take take x-rays of the your neck. The top two bones in your neck, C1 and C2 (or atlas and axis) are highly variable from one person to the next. Just like no two people look exactly alike (except maybe identical twins), no two spines look exactly alike. Furthermore, C1 and C2 are unique among all the other vertebrae of the spine in terms of how they are shaped, how they move, their size (very small), and how far under the skin they’re located – making them nearly impossible analyze accurately with palpation (touch) alone.
In summary, just as an orthopedic surgeon or dentist needs x-rays in order to perform his or her job and provide the highest quality of care to the patient, so do the upper cervical chiropractors at The Specific Chiropractic Center need to take x-rays.
When your health is on the line, you don’t want us to be guessing do you?