One of the most important elements of chiropractic care is diagnostics. Chiropractic radiology is a tool utilized in care as a diagnostic practice to rule out pathology (such as possible tumor or fracture) and/or an additional aid to determine where to adjust the spine. Chiropractors rely on a variety of diagnostic techniques in order to fully understand what is occurring in the patient’s musculoskeletal system, and how a given treatment intervention could bring about positive results in each patient.
Because chiropractic care uses spinal manipulation and other techniques that involve movement of skeletal components with the hands or with the use of the instrument, an X-ray can show a chiropractor exactly what is happening in the body in terms of alignment and structure.
It is important to highlight that X-rays are not used universally in chiropractic care. In most patients, the chiropractor is able to determine what is occurring in the musculoskeletal system without the need for imaging technology. X-rays are usually reserved for the more severe cases in which there may be a serious condition present such as scoliosis, osteoporosis, or spinal stenosis.
As a general guideline, X-rays are recommended in the following cases:
- If the patient has sustained a significant traumatic injury, as a bone may be broken or a joint may be dislocated
- If an infection may be causing the patient’s pain
- If any significant disease is suspected, such as cancer or a possible tumor
- If any type of joint disease is suspected, such as arthritis causing joint pain
- If the patient is over age 50 and has experienced any type of trauma (even a minor one)
- For most patients over 65 years of age
- Anyone who has been diagnosed with or who may be at risk for osteoporosis.
- The X-ray may be important to identify or rule out a possible vertebral fracture from osteoporosis.
- Any suspected spinal instability
- If the patient has had long-standing pain that has not responded to or resolved with previous health care treatment