Why Chiropractors Use X-Rays

Chiropractic care is mainly a hands-on approach, where your doctor adjusts your spine by hand and determines your needs based on what he or she feels in your back. This type of treatment can relieve many kinds of back and neck pain as well as certain illnesses. In some cases, after a few sessions, individuals no longer require pain medication or can avoid the need for surgery.

For many young or healthy individuals seeking general posture improvement or pain relief from too much computer time, x-rays are not needed. However, there are some circumstances when chiropractors utilize x-rays to ensure your safety and to determine what is truly occurring within your back and spine. This includes injuries, suspected infection, old age and frailty.

Only a minority of x-rays taken generally discover something significant that causes your chiropractor to change course, so be sure there is good reason to have an x-ray done, otherwise do not expose yourself to unnecessary radiation. If you do begin to receive chiropractic treatment and you notice you’ve hit a plateau in improvement or do not notice any improvement, an x-ray might uncover the reason why. After your doctor completes a thorough clinical evaluation of your medical history and lifestyle, they will determine what your health care needs are and whether an x-ray is necessary.


Chiropractors often use x-rays if you have been severely injured and there is a chance you have a broken or fractured bone. These are also useful if you think a joint might be dislocated. Spinal adjustments are not recommended when bones are fractured, and if your chiropractor discovers this, they will refer you to a specialist who can help.

Patients over the age of 50 who have experienced any sort of trauma and most patients over the age of 65 might need to have an x-ray done. X-rays may also be beneficial for individuals who have had long term pain that has not improved with other treatment methods.

Infection or Severe Illness

There are other scenarios when x-rays can provide information that the chiropractor cannot diagnose or fully determine without. Examples include:

  • A spinal infection like osteomyelitis
  • Serious diseases such as cancer or a tumor
  • Joint disease such as arthritis
  • Osteoporosis (which can cause vertebral fracture)
  • Spinal instability

Chiropractors are highly trained to examine a patient and determine what the best course of treatment is without using x-rays. Be sure that if your doctor requests these, they have a good reason for it. Most general back pain cases do not require an x-ray and any woman who might be pregnant should avoid these altogether.