Is There Evidence that X-rays Improve Chiropractic Treatment?
Yes, we’re going “there” today.
Often, we meet patients whose previous chiropractors have told them that regularly occurring, or even baseline (i.e., pre treatment) x-rays are important for demonstrating improvement with chiropractic care. Patients often ask why we don’t do this in our practice, so we’re going to explain why here.
But first, you should know we do and will refer for imaging (e.g., x-ray, MRI) if it is indicated that they are necessary. However, we don’t have an x-ray machine on site, and we always refer out for imaging so that a qualified radiologist can read and analyze the results. But, for most non-injury related treatments imaging isn’t necessary.
But back to the subject at hand...
In June of 2018, a few authors published an article about why x-ray imaging is important for chiropractic care (e.g., Oakley, Cuttler, & Harrison, 2018). Then in December, the World Federation of Chiropractic Research Council (e.g., Kawchuk et al., 2018) wrote a letter to the editor about the Oakley et al. (2018) article to express their concerns related to their message that imaging is always necessary in chiropractic care.
The World Federation of Chiropractic Research Council summarizes some good data about evidence-based imaging and about the non-existence of evidence to support the routine use of imaging (i.e. x-ray imaging) for chiropractic treatment alone. And, because they’re some of the top research experts in the field, we’ll summarize their points here.
X-ray imaging is definitely needed and evidence-based when it is suspected that something is going on (e.g., broken bone, arthritic changes).
We know of no study that shows that imaging improves the effectiveness of chiropractic care or adjustments.
There are no data to show that imaging is needed to ensure safety or that it increases the safety of chiropractic treatments.
If your doctor is telling you that regular radiation exposure might have beneficial health effects (beyond what you’re getting from adjustments), there are not any data to support this finding either. The authors even say that to suggest that radiation exposure might have benefits is “professionally irresponsible.”
There you have it, friends. If you want to talk more about this or schedule an appointment with one of our docs, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to see you!