Every so often, a prospective patient wants to know if they really need x-rays. This is an important question for us to address, and certainly a fair one to be asked since not all chiropractors use x-ray in their practice. X-rays are a standard part of our NeuroStructural Chiropractic examination, just as they are standard procedure for a dental visit. In a dental setting, patients understand that periodic x-rays of their teeth give the doctor valuable information about the structure, alignment and overall health of the teeth. A dentist’s x-rays eliminate any need for guesswork, and actually increase the safety of the patient and the quality of care. At Precision Chiropractic it’s no different.
Most patients’ initial concern regarding x-rays is the radiation – they don’t want the exposure. This is, of course, a legitimate concern, so let’s take a minute to address it. Radiation from x-rays used for diagnostic purposes (as we use them in our practice) is measured in milliseiverts (mSv), and the dose a person receives is called the effective dose. Different tissues in the body have varying degrees of sensitivity to radiation exposure, and the term effective dose is used as an average risk over the entire body.
To provide a frame of reference, we are exposed to radiation from natural sources all the time. The average person growing up in the U.S. receives an effective dose of about 3mSv per year from cosmic radiation as well as naturally present radioactive materials. Altitude also plays a role, but the largest source of background radiation exposure comes from radon gas in our homes. Much like a cut on your finger, your body tissues can and do heal from the “wound” created by an x-ray, as long as the exposure is neither too large nor too frequent. Applying this to our practice, the specific NeuroStructural views we take of the neck amount to 0.2mSv. To put this into perspective, it’s about the equivalent of just over 3 weeks’ worth of what you’d normally be exposed to from your natural surroundings.
You might still be wondering why we even need x-rays in the first place. No two spines are shaped exactly alike, and no two spines move in exactly the same way. In fact, asymmetry in our bodies is the rule rather than the exception, making relying on our sense of touch alone a gamble (and one we’re not willing to take). We use state-of-the art high-frequency digital x-ray technology in our practice, which minimizes the exposure to our patients while providing us with the highest resolution images. We utilize these images to customize care for each of our patients, while maintaining the highest standard of safety and quality.