The human spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, but adults only have 26 because bones in the sacral area at the bottom of the spine fuse together in late adolescence. Of the 26 remaining bones only the top 24 are moveable, as the vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx are fused.
The cervical spine (neck) has 7 vertebrae, numbered C1-C7. The thoracic (mid back) has 12 vertebrae, T1-T12, and the lumbar (lower back) has five vertebrae, L1-L5. Because our vertebrae are made of bone, x-rays are used to provide detailed images of the bony anatomy of the spine. Dr. Albert uses spinal x-rays to look for fractures, instability, arthritis and other conditions affecting the spine. Call 212-606-1004 today to schedule a Spinal X-Ray consultation at our NYC office!
What is a spinal x-ray?
A spinal x-ray is a diagnostic tool that uses radiation to make detailed pictures of the bones of the spine. As with any x-ray, spinal x-rays use x-ray beams. A focused beam of radiation is sent through the targeted area of the spine. This beam records a black-and-white image either on film or digitally on a computer. The bones of your vertebrae show up white, while soft tissue, such as fat or muscle, appear in shades of gray.
Dr. Albert will order separate X-rays to focus on the affected area of your spine.
What are the reasons for having a spinal x-ray?
Dr. Albert will order a spinal x-ray to evaluate a back or neck injury and to help with the diagnosis and treatment of back or neck pain. Some of the issues in the spine that can be detected with a spinal X-ray:
- Fractures (breaks)
- Tumors (abnormal masses of cells)
- Disc problems
- Deformities in the curvature of the spine
- Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
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What Are the Different Types of Spinal X-Rays?
An X-ray is an X-ray. The difference with various spinal x-rays is the segment of the spine that is being studied. In this regard, the different types of spinal x-rays include:
- Cervical spine (neck)
- Thoracic spine (chest or trunk area)
- Lumbar spine (lower back)
- Scoliosis (entire spine)
Who is a Candidate for a Spinal X-Ray?
Your doctor may recommend that you have a spinal x-ray or other imaging if you've presented with symptoms of a potential injury or abnormality. In addition to broken bones, a spinal x-ray may help diagnose other causes of pain, including:
- Congenital spinal abnormalities
- Abnormal spinal curvature
- Spinal disc problems
Who Should Not Have a Spinal X-Ray?
Most people can safely have a spinal x-ray. X-rays and other imaging are necessary as an aid to making an accurate diagnosis of pain or other symptoms.
What Should I Wear?
It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing for your spinal x-ray. Your doctor or the imaging center may advise you to wear clothes that DO NOT have a belt, buckle, zip, or buttons across the area of study. So, if your lower back is being observed, a pair of elastic-waist shorts or pants may be best.
Can I Have an X-ray on My Spine if I'm Pregnant?
Spinal x-rays can be performed on women who are pregnant. However, this is done only when absolutely necessary and is not typically recommended by our office. The concern regarding x-rays during pregnancy is that the minor amount of radiation applied for the test may affect the fetus' cellular development. If imaging is medically necessary the doctor will recommend other forms of diagnostic imaging during pregnancy.
What Are the Risks of a Spine X-Ray?
The primary concern related to x-ray imaging is radiation exposure. For the vast majority of people, the very low amount of radiation holds no significant risk. In some cases, a doctor will determine that another form of imaging may be more suitable. Keep in mind that x-rays are more effective at identifying certain anomalies of the bone, making this the ideal form of imaging in some circumstances.
Are there any risks involved with spinal x-rays?
X-rays use radiation to create their images. In the vast majority of people, x-rays are safe. While some people worry about the radiation they receive, the amount used in spinal x-rays is minimal.
What should I do before my spinal x-ray?
There isn’t any special preparation required for a spinal x-ray. If you are pregnant, you should not have an x-ray as it is best to avoid radiation exposure to the developing baby.
If you have an insulin pump, you’ll need to inform the x-ray technician of this.
You’ll be asked to remove all jewelry and other objects containing metal.
What will happen during my spinal x-ray?
Your x-ray technician will position your body against the x-ray film in a way that produces the clearest image. Most x-rays of the upper or lower spine are taken while you are lying on an x-ray table. You may be asked to change positions or move your arms to provide clearer paths for the radiation. If Dr. Albert will be evaluating your cervical spine, you may be asked to open your mouth in order to get a better picture of the upper cervical spine.
When your position is right, the technician will ask you to hold very still and to hold your breath while the x-ray radiation is pulsed. This only takes a few seconds. Any movement, such as breathing, may blur the x-ray image.
What happens after the x-ray is taken?
After the x-rays are taken, the technician will process the images. He or she will check to make sure the x-rays are acceptable and show clear images of your spine. Once the images are cleared they will be sent to Dr. Albert for review.
What spinal disorders won’t show up on an x-ray?
Soft tissue injuries do not generally show up on x-ray. Examples of these include:
- Strained spinal muscles
- Inflammation-related discomfort affecting spine-supporting tissues
- Other suspected soft tissue injuries around your spine
Call Dr. Albert Today For Your Spinal X-Ray Appointment In NYC!
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of a spinal x-ray and whether you are a candidate, please give our NYC office a call at 212-606-1004 to book a personalized consultation with Dr. Todd J. Albert! Or, you can fill out the form in our contact page, and our talented staff will help you set up your meeting with Dr. Albert.