Why You NEED X-rays If You’re Going To A Chiropractor
As a chiropractor, one of the most common concerns for new patients is the need for x-rays prior to treatment. It’s not uncommon for people to call and shop around for a chiropractor who will comply with their demands. Don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s VERY important to find a chiropractor, medical doctor or physical therapist that will work with a patient’s wants. HOWEVER, make sure that your concerns are based on science and sound information and not merely personal preference. There is a certain amount of trust that you will need to place in your chiropractor to get you well and you don’t want to tie his/her hands. Most importantly, ask why. If you are hesitant as to the need for any test, talk to your chiropractor about it.
In the end, if you value your health, you want to find a chiropractor that is not only willing but capable of making structural changes to your spine. The vast majority of our patients come to Corrective Chiropractic after physical therapy, medicine, or traditional chiropractic failed them. The reason they are often unable to improve the patient’s symptoms and health is because none of these healthcare providers are capable of both identifying and correcting the cause of musculoskeletal conditions and symptoms like headaches, neck pain, mid back pain, low back pain, sciatica, disc herniation, disc bulge, etc.
Not All Doctors Are Created Equal
Here’s why. Not all of them do proper diagnostic testing and none of them treat based on the spines ideal structure. The gold standard for identifying the cause of these types of problems is weight bearing full spine x-rays. It’s not uncommon for your medical doctor or traditional chiropractor to take x-rays of only the area of complaint. For example, they only take neck x-rays for neck pain or low back x-rays for low back pain or sciatica. This is a BIG mistake. Your spine should be analyzed as one whole organ. This is very common due to insurance standards.
Health insurance often dictates the type of care a patient will receive and it is not uncommon for health insurance to do so based on erroneous or misleading information. Do you want a high school graduate whose first job is as an insurance adjuster to be the one deciding how much chiropractic care you need? Or do you want the doctor of chiropractic that you are trusting with your health to make that decision? If you want cheap care then, by all means, get only the chiropractic care and testing done that your insurance company thinks is necessary. I assure you it will be less than the bare minimum necessary. At best you may have some reduction in pain. More likely is that no matter what you will be left with your spine uncorrected.
If you want to fix the cause of the problem you first have to identify it.
If your house has cracked walls, squeaky windows, and creaking floorboards you won’t investigate only one section of the foundation of your house. You check the whole thing. Your spine is the same. It is the foundation on which all your muscles and organs attach. In order for your chiropractor to properly investigate the cause of your disc herniation, headaches, low back pain, etc., x-rays of the entire spine are essential.
True, it’s more common to have a medical doctor or traditional chiropractor treat only the symptoms but still leave the cause of the symptoms (abnormal spinal shape) in place. This, of course, is likely to cause the symptoms to return and puts the patient at risk for the problem to get much worse the next time around. Looking at the house foundation example again, if you have someone come in and patch your walls, put grease or oil on the window jambs and nail down those squeaky floor boards, the symptoms will have been improved but the cause (the crooked foundation) remains unfixed. If the homeowner remains unaware of the damaged foundation, the symptoms will likely reappear or worse. It is even possible that unrepairable problems are caused leaving the house condemned and unlivable.
This is the exact same situation I see patients either put themselves in or are put in as a result of their medical doctor, physical therapist (who can’t take x-rays), or traditional chiropractor. All of these healthcare professionals are often very good at helping your symptoms. However, if you want to actually fix the foundation of your body you need a structurally focused corrective chiropractor to first examine your foundation via full spine x-rays.
Corrective Chiropractic will do it’s best to meet all patients where they are. Your chiropractor will not sacrifice a high standard of the investigative and exam process. No guessing or “pop and pray” as they say with our patients. However, after being explained all of the risks and benefits of treatment, Corrective Chiropractic will offer acute pain care treatment if requested BUT only after a proper exam and x-rays are performed to be able to accurately determine the cause of the problem and the best course of treatment.
Why Would My Spine Be Abnormal?
The alignment of your spine is not a hard and fixed shape. Your spine is influenced daily by numerous forces. We have all seen numerous examples of people who have neglected their spine. Whether it be the hardcore computer programmer with a “goose neck” posture with his head projecting way out in front of his body or the elderly woman with the no so flattering “hunchback”. These postures are pathological and can result in neck pain, mid back pain, low back pain, headaches, migraines, carpal tunnel like symptoms, numbness or tingling in the extremities, etc.
This happens because your spine is a highly movable structure made up of numerous joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. There is a very specific ideal position that allows your body to perform optimally. However, that normal model, straight from the front and three curves looking from the side, can be altered in various ways.
How your spines shape can be negatively altered:
- Computer screen is too low
- Studying or reading head down sitting on your bed
- Factory workers who turn or lift the same direction all day
- Even low-speed car accidents can cause significant spinal damage
- Whiplash injuries can have lifelong negative effects even if symptoms are improved short-term.
- Slips & falls. Most people think that only adults get injured from a slip or fall. However, children and adolescents are much more active and likely to fall and injury themselves. The problem is that adults assume all children heal 100% because they are young or aren’t complaining of pain. This is not true. The only way you can know for sure is with a structural chiropractor checking for abnormal spine shape and alignment.
- Remember that old football injury from high school that still bothers you. No? Don’t worry, most people forget because the pain when away after a few weeks…. until it came back years later. HINT: the injury was always there and never healed. It needs to be corrected by a structural chiropractor. The sooner the better to prevent irreversible spine degeneration.
Lack of exercise
- Obesity can make it difficult or impossible to have a normal spinal shape due to increased stress and loading on the spine from excess weight. An abnormal center of gravity from fat being deposited more is certain areas can also affect your spines shape.
- Your spine is designed to move and when it lacks motion it will degenerate.
Disease, Mutation and Congenital Anomalies
- Genetic abnormalities due to mutation are probably the least common but not rare
- Most common anomalies are found when vertebrae or more often the sacrum form a less than normal shape. A hemi-vertebrae or abnormal sacrum (the most anomalous bone in the human body) can affect the shape of the whole spine due to the shape of one or more segments of the spine. Situations like this are still often abled to be helped by chiropractic. But you have to see it’s there to help it.
- Diseases like rickets or ankylosing spondylitis that causes deformation bone or spinal joints can also cause abnormal spinal shapes.
Pros & Cons
I know numerous structurally focused chiropractic colleagues who take full spine x-rays of patients. We are a less common breed of chiropractor than the more common traditional, pain-based chiropractor. Those of us who do take full spine x-rays on all patients often see horribly degenerated, broken spines or spines with congenital defects that should never be adjusted without first having seen them on x-ray. As a result, it is VERY common for us to see patients that have come from traditional chiropractic offices with no relief. But when we take full spine x-rays the problem is all too often, quite obvious.
The risk of full spine x-rays is practically inconsequential when compared to the risk of not having them. You’re literally treating based almost entirely on feeling instead of visually objective evidence as with full spine x-rays. Without that evidence, you are left with only being able to adjust one or two segments at once. This is typically where you hear the infamous popping sound. The problem is those types of adjustments are only going to mobilize joints. It is essential for patients with abnormal spinal shapes to receive mirror-image adjustment where to adjust the entire neck or low back or even whole spine at once to retrain the body back towards an ideal spinal shape. This, of course, requires more than just regional, not segmental chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic structural correction requires spinal remodeling and mirror-image spinal exercises and stabilization.
Full-spine x-rays are extremely safe and provide a very minimal amount of radiation. For more detail on the X-Ray Protocols and Exposure followed by Corrective Chiropractic CLICK HERE.