Spinal X rays | Spinal X-rays

Plain X-Rays of the spine basically tell you a lot about the health of the spinal curves, the health of the vertebral bones themselves, and how healthy the disc space is between the endplates of the vertebrae. X-Rays are also known as radiographs, and they show a lot of useful information about the health of the vertebrae due to its high density. The bones of our body being very dense absorb X-rays photons as they pass through the body. The soft tissues of the spine, including the discs and facet joints, on the other hand, have a much lower molecular density so they allow much more X-Rays photons to pass through the body and hit the image receptor. For this reason, the bones show up as whiter on radiographs while the joints and other soft tissues show up darker.

A good X-ray shows a lot of detailed information of the vertebral bones and the other bones of the body they articulate (join) with. These medical images though show virtually no information about the soft tissues such as the muscle, ligaments, discs, and facet joints. These soft tissues show up as mainly black, and conditions ligament tears, muscle tears, and herniated discs will not be diagnosable using this testing technology. Likewise, these images don't really show much useable information about the tissues in the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots.

Other negatives of X-Rays: Another negative of X-Rays is the fact that it involves ionizing radiation. As these X-Rays photons pass through the body, they known electrons out of atoms in your body, changing them from stable to unstable. This exposure to radiation has the potential to be harmful to the body, especially for people who are of child-bearing age or younger. Precautions are taken, though, to protect the reproductive organs when possible, however, when performing these X-Rays. Experts do say that the radiation exposure is very low, and that it is equal to about a full day exposure to the sun's rays on a clear day.



Why are X-Rays Done? So far we have mentioned some of the negatives and hazards of X-Rays tests? So what are some of the benefits? These tests do offer doctors a lot of useful diagnostic information when it comes to ruling out spinal fractures after accidents, spinal curve disorders such as scoliosis, bone density issues such as osteoporosis, and evidence of infections.

Patients may receive spinal X-Rays to diagnose or rule out the following conditions:
  • Check for changes in the spine after spinal surgery

  • Check for abnormal curvatures in the spine. Some examples of curvature disorders include scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis. Children with childhood and adolescent scoliosis will be regularly X-rayed to see if the curvature is progressing (getting more severe).

  • Check the spine for congenital conditions (present at birth) such as spina bifida

  • Check the spine for bone spurs, tumors, and infections

  • Check to see if a traumatic event caused injuries such as spinal dislocations or fracture

  • Check for the breakdown of the intervertebral discs that separate the vertebral bodies. We have already mentioned earlier in this article that the discs just show up as mainly black because they do not absorb X-Rays. You can't really tell any information about them. Yet you can estimate the health of the discs indirectly by observing the amount of width there is between the discs. For this reason, X-Rays may enable doctors to diagnose disc conditions such as degenerative disc disease.

  • Check for arthritis of the joints between the vertebrae

  • Find the cause of lingering back pain, weakness, or numbness