X-Rays in Chiropractic Care

x-rays in chiropractic care.

X-rays, or radiographs, can be a useful tool for chiropractors in diagnosing spine and joint problems. Let's look at why, when and how chiropractors may use X-ray technology in practice.


Chiropractors may take (or refer you out for) X-rays if they feel the results would impact the diagnosis or treatment of your condition. X-rays allow us to see bones, joints and the spaces in between them. With these images, we can look at the bone and joint structures themselves for problems, measure important angles and evaluate how alignment affects various joints, especially in the spine.

We can also detect arthritic changes in the spine, which can paint a bigger health picture related to your symptoms. It is important to catch arthritis early so that lifestyle and treatment recommendations can be made to help prevent further degeneration. Tumor growth may also be detected and, again, is best detected at an early stage before more serious problems occur.


Whether or not X-rays are ordered depends on many factors. X-rays are recommended when needed to confirm a diagnosis or look more closely at an area of pain. And some health conditions, whether or not they cause pain, can only be properly seen with imaging. These include arthritis, bone spurs and abnormal growth, development or curvature of the spine.

The “mechanism of action”—how your pain or other symptoms started—is another factor when determining the need for X-rays. If you were in an accident or suffered another traumatic event, X-rays may be requested. It is important to rule out serious injury before being treated. Also, if you have symptoms but do not remember injuring yourself, if you have pain or other symptoms that are not responding to treatment, or if it's suspected that your symptoms are related to arthritis, an X-ray may help determine the cause.

Because there is a small amount of radiation exposure, X-rays are not taken unless they are medically necessary, and only of the specific area of the body that is being examined. The technician is trained to minimize the amount of radiation exposure.


The process of getting X-rays is quick and not painful. Before the X-rays are taken, it is important to tell your physician if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant. Once you are cleared for the X-ray, you will need to remove any jewelry from the area of the body to be imaged, and you may need to remove certain items of clothing (you will be provided with a gown if needed). You will be positioned for the least amount of movement to assure that the images are taken quickly and accurately. There will likely be a series of two or more positions that you will hold for each area being x-rayed, which allows us to see the bones and joints from different angles.

After the radiographs have been taken, the results will provide information about your spine, its curvature and levels of degeneration (arthritis). These results determine the current condition of your spine and may help guide your treatment.

Spine Changes Detected via X-Ray

Chiropractic X-rays are important in identifying degeneration of the spine (osteoarthritis). Once degeneration has occurred, it cannot be reversed. Similar to a cavity in a tooth, the earlier the degeneration or other bony changes are found, the faster we can correct and restore normal joint motion and slow down further degeneration.

There are three phases of spinal degeneration:

  • In phase 1, the discs (cartilage) between the vertebrae begin to lose volume because they are no longer holding fluid the way a normal disc would.
  • In phase 2, we begin to see bony changes on an X-ray. These changes may include vertebrae appearing closer together because the discs are thinning out and possibly bulging; bone spurs, which appear like a rough edge of vertebrae; and a change in the natural curve of the spine.
  • In phase 3 of spinal degeneration, the vertebrae may appear very close together, sometimes as a fused vertebra with no visible disc. More significant bone spurring may be visible in the X-ray. At this stage, a surgical consultation may be warranted.

As the degenerative process progresses, disc herniation, bone spurring and the possibility of nerve impingement become more likely. Diagnosing degeneration early is important. Although we cannot reverse degeneration, we can work to reduce or prevent it from continuing.

X-rays can be a very useful clinical tool in diagnosing and treating several spine and joint conditions, but they are not necessary for every patient. We can talk with you about the benefits and risks of X-rays and whether or not they are needed for your care.

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I've been coming to see Dr. Bob since 1984 for my back pain. After each visit, the vast improvement lasts about one whole month. Even after all these years, Dr. Bob continues to provide outstanding care for me, my children, and my grandchildren. I've referred several people to HealthWise Chiropractic, so they too can see the results I have. My favorite part of my visits is the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and doctors and, of course, the results I get that improve my daily living."
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  • "About ten years ago I was at the gym, I bent over and couldn't get up, the pain was horrible. I contacted Healthwise and Dr. Mike gave me an emergency appointment that evening. He did a complete physical and x-ray before he started any treatment. After my first treatment I was able to stand up and walk with minimal pain. With a few visits I was back to normal. I continued treatments as needed for the next several years.
    I see Dr. Bob regularly to stay fit and pain-free. He tests my strength and weakness to determine the best treatment. Our open discussion led him to help my acid reflux. I now exercise and walk as is essential for a septuagenarian.
    I told Dr. Bob that I was starting to get knee pain that I thought was arthritis; I didn't think chiropractic care could help. He told me about new equipment to help. I look forward to improvement.
    I was a skeptic of chiropractic care, now I would recommend HealthWise to anyone with chronic/simple pain. It worked for me. It can work for you!"
    Sherry B.
  • "I was very miserable with constant pain in my leg while knowing it had something to do with my back. My friend surprised me with an appointment with Dr. Bob. After being treated by Dr. Bob I knew right away it was exactly what I needed. I learned a lot through my conversations with the doctor. I am really thankful to Dr. Bob and his staff."
    Ed L.
  • "I had a very limited understanding of chiropractic care until I tried it for the first time 12 years ago. I came in with severe pain in my neck, which prohibited me from moving my head. I was greeted by a kind staff, had an exam and x-rays done on my first appointment followed by an adjustment. I felt so much better after my first adjustment and by following the treatment plan my headaches and migraines improved. My overall health has improved because of chiropractic care. Dr. Bob helps make sure that I am taking the right supplements to optimize my health and fitness performance. They have helped me with allergies, knee and shoulder pain, and earaches. I had no idea when I began my chiropractic journey just how much help the doctors and staff at HealthWise would be at improving my quality of life."
    Britt H.
  • "I have been a patient at HealthWise Chiropractic for over 20 years. In the past and currently I am seeing Dr. Bob, however, I have seen all docs at Healthwise. My general issues are usually seasonally related to sinus and allergies. Recently I have been receiving treatment for my hip and lower back. Dr. Bob zeros in on trigger points and quickly relieves my pain. He is a wealth of knowledge and offers help and suggestion on my health issues. The staff is friendly and helpful. I leave feeling better and I believe helps to keep my body aligned and energized. I have also come in after falls, injuries and surgeries. I truly believe my adjustments at the time added to a quicker recovery."
    Liz B.
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Bob for two and half months. . I see him for an adjustment every two weeks. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in January 2021 while working in Florida for my continued lower back pain and chronic bilateral hip bursitis. Because my pain was mostly relieved with continued adjustments, I decided to continue with treatment when returning to Wisconsin. I have been very happy with my continued pain relief/adjustments at HealthWise. I highly recommend anyone with chronic back and neck pain to try chiropractic adjustments here at HealthWise. It will make your life better."
    Marianne V.
  • "Really enjoyed the different things that they can do for you and your pain management. Would highly recommend."
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  • "I enjoy coming, getting readjusted and any additional therapies. It has made my life healthier and less stressful. If I have questions, they are answered at that visit. The staff is very professional, personable and friendly. I always look forward to my next visit with them. I am glad to be part of Healthwise Chiropractic family:)"
    Marcella L.
  • "Dr. Mike is fantastic! He is very personable….will take time to really to your needs… I enjoy my visits…the maintenance has helped tremendously…..and he is there when the emergency pops up! Excellent Chiropractor!"
    Ann W.

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