Chiropractor Questions X-Ray

I have undergone about 5 X-rays in the last 2 months for my spinal problem. Are there any risks?

For my slight spinal problem I have undergone about 5 X-rays. Could the radiation cause any problems for me or my back in the future?

30 Answers

Radiation exposure. Some people worry that X-rays aren't safe because radiation exposure can cause cell mutations that may lead to cancer. The amount of radiation you're exposed to during an X-ray depends on the tissue or organ being examined. But if X-rays are needed to diagnose a condition for treatment, then you need to take that risk.
Latest X-Ray research says No!
I sometimes take multiple X-rays of a patient in a single visit. No, 5 X-rays taken by a qualified person will not hurt you.
X-rays, when taken correctly, should not be a great concern. There are certainly health risks when too many x-rays are taken too close in time, but 5 x-rays taken over a 2 month period does not sound like over use for spinal diagnostics.
The risk is low with current technology but I would avoid having anymore for sometime
NOT REALLY. The environment radiations we are getting every day are a lot more than any X-ray effect. To get radiation disease, you have to be under at least 50 shots at once without moving the X-ray tube from its place.
Not at all. Many patients have the same question. The amount of exposure in 5 films is pretty minimal. It is approximately the same amount you would experience naturally in 6 months. A CT scan would be about 3 years worth of radiation exposure. The radiology tech should make sure to use a lead vest or other protective garment on areas that may not be part of the X-ray.
I seriously doubt if 5 X-rays will cause any long-term problems. Yes, radiation is always a possible risk, however, the amount you received was most likely minimal. The bigger concern is what you referred to as a minimal problem, as pain alone is no judge as to the true severity or lack of severity. What is not working correctly will wear out quicker, so beware of future problems from your self described minimal condition.
Did you mean to say you’ve had five SETS of x-rays in the last two months? When you are sent for plain film radiographs (a.k.a. “C-rays) of your low back, there are usually three views taken (A-P, lateral and L5 “spot”), for your mid-back at least two (A-P and lateral views).

My other question for you is why? Who would ever need so many views of your spine? I need to know what your doctor diagnosed and why so many sets of radiographs. On the surface, it seems unnecessary.

That said, it is not likely that it will cause additional problems for your back. But unless there is repeat trauma or other condition, five sets of x-rays sounds like overutilization to me. Please provide more detail. For most low back pain (LBP), x-rays are not necessary.

This is a complicated answer. Overall, radiation exposure from an x-ray is usually minimal. That being said, a common step after one x-ray for a specific spinal region would usually be an MRI, depending on your clinical presentation and numerous other factors.

Dr. Duchon
Without knowing the injury and or the rational and reason for the x-rays, it would be impossible to comment on the risk/benefit ratio of having 5 x-rays. Certain techniques use multiple x-rays to provide feedback on improvement, bio-mechanics and rational for treatment. The newer systems use much less radiation and most trained professionals only use radiographs when warranted. If your concerned ask the provider to explain the rational and use, so you understand the risk/benefit ratio.

Dr. Bernard
Five views of the spine are reasonable to rule out fracture and pathology. One needs to find out the cause in order to properly eliminate the problem. If the x-rays are negative or inconclusive look to the muscles (tension or weakness) or metabolic problems that could lead to inflammation. Even gout can settle in the back and cause problems.

Best of success to you!
Hi there,

It shouldn’t cause problems for your back. However, I would discuss exposure to multiple X-rays with your physician to ensure all imaging is necessary.

Best of luck,

Dr. Caitlin Zietz, B.Sc., D.C.
I can understand your concern about the amount of radiation you are being exposed to as your spinal condition is being monitored/treated. You are exposed to radiation with each radiograph (X-ray) taken, even dental X-rays, however it is far less than a CT scan and even flying on an airplane exposes you to some of the same radiation.

If you are pregnant or actively trying to get pregnant, radiographs should not be taken unless absolutely necessary. For men, screens over the groin area should be used as a safety
precaution. As a general rule, radiographs should be taken if a doctor suspects some sort of instability, broken bone(s), cancer, possibly osteoporosis, things of that nature. If a patient isn't responding to care, radiographs might be taken to rule out bony anomalies. The healthcare professional ordering the X-rays should be able to tell you what they are looking for and if there are any other ways they can get the same information without using X-ray technology. I hope this is helpful.
I'm not sure what you are asking. If you're asking if you will receive damage to your spine from X-rays, that would be a no. The radiation exposure is low and presents no risk. CT scans however expose a lot of radiation.
There really is very minimal risk of any radiation harm from that amount of spinal X-rays. You would get significantly more radiation from a single CT scan. Also, any possible risk is mitigated by the information received from those film studies. So, no do not be concerned or worried.

No, you have nothing to worry about. A typical X-ray series can include 5-7 X-rays. The benefits of the visualization of the structures typically outweigh the risks of exposure.

Have a great day and be well.

Dr. Eric Miller
It is professionally and ethically irresponsible that you have been X-rayed 5 times over the last 2 months for what you called a "slight spinal problem". The level of exposure to radiation is 5 times of what you should actually have been exposed to. Depending on your condition, the severity, the length of exposure (it's chronicity or timeline) and it's presenting symptoms as well as the signs that you are reporting will determine the exact location to be X-rayed. Typically, you would only perform an initial X-ray to aid the physician in arriving at a particular diagnosis, aid in formulating a treatment protocol or use as a baseline measure when beginning a treatment for a specific disorder.

The second time that you should undergo an X-ray is during the re-evaluation to document your progress in response to the treatment protocol. From my experience, this should be at a minimum of 4-6 months from the initial radiograph and that is basically it. At no time should you have to undergo 5 set of radiographs in a span of 2 months. No, no and no!

To say that the radiation can definitely lead to problems in the future is not accurate at this point in time. It could, however it is a bit premature to ascertain such a statement. However, the likelihood of your chances of having a sequelae in the future from this incident is definitely increased. I can make that statement with confidence.

Also, the skill, knowledge and experience of the person taking your radiographs is a significant factor. Were the settings correct? Did he/she use the proper shielding? Does he/she know how to interpret the charts when making their determination as to the setting to be utilized? All of these play an important role in shooting a high quality radiograph and thus minimizing your exposure to radiation.

I would also think that if you continue to go to the same physician that overexposed you to those X-rays, I would be confident in saying that your back pain would deteriorate and worsen with time. The reason being is that in my 25 years plus in the healthcare industry, I have never been associated with a physician who would do such a thing or heard of such an instance where this would be the case.

With that being said, I would not be confident in thinking that this particular physician would be skilled enough or have the knowledge to properly address your health concerns.
No, I am just curious, if the spinal problem is slight, why so many X-rays?
Do you live in the Rockford area?
Risk is age related. It is also exposure related. If you are a young person, it is more likely that exposure to radiation could affect you at a later date even though that is a minimal increase in risk. There is nothing that we do in life that is without risk, including eating.
Having 5 X-rays completed in one spinal area is not dangerous to your long term health.
You did not mention what areas of the body had the x-ray. The neck will need or use the lowest amount of radiation as compared to the low back which will typically need the most. If this was all the x-rays you have had regardless of region you should be fine. You should discuss this concern with your Chiropractor. Since he or she knows what type of equipment they use, should have a better of idea of the amount of exposure you may have received.
Usually, it's not too much radiation, just make sure you don't do too many more.
I would ask first, why were there 5 x-rays performed and the radiation is minimal for each x-ray. I would also ask what the diagnosis is based on why the doctor needed 5 x-rays.
Radiation is cumulative. So minimize your exposure (pun intended) as much as possible. But a well trained doctor will know when to use the correct imaging and when it is needd. FYI: MRIs are not radiation, they are magnets.
Very slim chance. Not enough to worry about, especially if it was high frequency digital. More like the day you burned by the pool because of no sunscreen is going to cause the issues.
If your issue has not been identified by X-ray, an MRI may be needed also. I recommend an examination by a chiropractor.
There is some risk but it is minimal. It is more important that your health care providers get the information needed to treat you.