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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    When should chiropractors take xray's

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  • Dr. Aaron Albrecht works at Body Wise Chiropractic in Bibra Lake, Western Australia. The clinic is located within a gym, and Dr. Albrecht is the ... View Profile

    Hi,
    The use of diagnostic imaging in chiropractic varies from clinic to clinic. In my view, however, imaging should only be employed when necessary to eliminate serious pathology. Most lesions chiropractors treat (movement restrictions of the spine) are not visible on imaging, so the vast majority of studies come back as ‘normal’. Even when certain curvatures of the spine etc. are located, their clinical significance is often neither here nor there (i.e. some patients come in with dead straight spines but in significant pain, while others come in with obvious curvatures of the spine, and no pain to speak of).

    In my clinic I will employ imaging when diagnostic testing (orthopaedic, chiropractic or otherwise) leads me to suspect there may be something more sinister going on or if the results of the testing are inconsistent with the history taken from the patient. I will also take imaging when someone over the age of 60 has a condition brought on by trauma (a fall or accident for example).

    Hope this helps.

    - Dr. A

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    Thanks

    Martin is a senior lecturer in radiology and one of Australia's most experienced chiropractic radiologists. View Profile

    This very much depends on your individual presentation, including age and any existing health conditions, as well as what your presenting complaint is (ie. why are you going to see the chiropractor), and what type of care the chiropractor is recommending to provide.

    X-rays are very useful in diagnosing many skeletal pathologies as well as assessing biomechanical changes and appropraiteness for certain treatments.

    In most cases, radiographs will not diagnose a cause for non-specific low back pain (acute or chronic), but there can often be other things on your x-ray which may significantly impact the type of adjustments a chiropractor does on you. Some abnormalities can be present which would contraindicate chiropractic manual adjustments, but you may not know they exist.  In such cases, chiropractors may modify the care they intend to provide or refer you to another provider. Examples may include:

    1. osteoarthritis where the chiropractor may need to modify their adjustments, including the level of adjustment and how often they need to see you which can affect your overall prognosis - ie. how long it will take to make you feel better and whether the pain is likely to return.

    2. osteoporosis - conditions like this and other metabolic conditions may affect the type of care a chiropractors provides.

    3. History of inflammatory diseases. sometimes the chiropractor may require an x-ray, not to diagnose a new problem, but merely to assess suitability of care. If you have ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid arthritis, there are many factors which must be identified on x-ray to prevent an adverse effect from a manual chiropractic adjustment. In such cases, your chiropractor may modify the care proposed.

    To answer your question, it depends on the individual.

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