are a form of radiation, like light or radio waves, that are focused into a
beam, much like a flashlight beam. X-rays can pass through most objects,
including the human body. X-rays make a picture by striking a detector that
either exposes a film or sends the picture to a computer. Dense tissues in the
body, such as bones, block (absorb) many of the X-rays and look white on an
X-ray picture. Less dense tissues, such as muscles and organs, block fewer of
the X-rays (more of the X-rays pass through) and look like shades of gray on an
X-ray. X-rays that pass only through air, such as through the lungs, look black on the picture.
X-rays are pictures of the spine. They may be taken to find injuries or
diseases that affect the
discs or joints in your spine. These problems may include spinal
fractures, infections, dislocations, tumors, bone
spurs, or disc disease.
Spinal X-rays are also done to check the curve of
your spine (scoliosis) or for spinal defects.
The spine is divided into
four parts. So there are four common types of spinal X-rays:
- Cervical spine X-ray. This X-ray test takes
pictures of the 7 neck (cervical) bones.
- Thoracic spine X-ray. This X-ray test takes
pictures of the 12 chest (thoracic) bones.
- Lumbosacral spine X-ray. This X-ray test takes
pictures of the 5 bones of the lower back (lumbar vertebrae) and a view of the
5 fused bones at the bottom of the spine (sacrum).
- Sacrum/coccyx X-ray. This X-ray test takes a
detailed view of the 5 fused bones at the bottom of the spine (sacrum) and the
4 small bones of the tailbone (coccyx).
The most common spinal X-rays are of the cervical
vertebrae (C-spine films) and lumbosacral vertebrae (LS-spine films).
Why It Is Done
A spinal X-ray is done to:
- Find the cause of ongoing pain, numbness, or
- Check for
arthritis of the joints between the vertebrae and the
breakdown (degeneration) of the discs between the spinal
- Check injuries to the spine, such as fractures or
- Check the spine for effects
from other problems, such as infections, tumors, or bone
- Check for abnormal curves of the spine, such as
scoliosis, in children or young adults.
- Check the spine for
problems present at birth (congenital conditions), such as
spina bifida, in infants, children, or young
- Check changes in the spine after spinal surgery.