How It Feels
You will feel no discomfort from the
X-rays. The X-ray table may feel hard, and the room may be cool. You may find
that the positions you need to hold are uncomfortable or painful, especially if
you have an injury.
There is always a slight risk of damage to
cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels
of radiation used for this test. But the risk of damage from the X-rays is
usually very low compared with the potential benefits of the test.
For example, the radiation exposure from a chest X-ray is about equal to
the natural radiation exposure received during a round-trip airline flight from
Boston to Los Angeles (or Montreal to Vancouver) or 10 days in the Rocky
Mountains (Denver, Colorado).
In an emergency, a doctor can see the
results of a spinal X-ray in a few minutes. Otherwise, a
radiologist usually has the official X-ray report
ready the next day.
The bones of the spine
(vertebrae) are normal in number, size, shape, appearance, and how they are
No broken bones,
dislocations, or foreign objects are present. The soft
tissues around the vertebrae look normal.
The spine is not abnormally
Broken bones, dislocations, or
foreign objects are present.
The spine is abnormally
curved, such as from
Diseases that affect the
spine, such as thin bones (osteoporosis) or
arthritis, are present. One or more bones in the
spine may be abnormal because of a condition you were born with or because of cancer, infection, or trauma.
Disc disease, which is fairly
common, can sometimes be seen on a spinal X-ray as a narrowed space between the
bones of the spine. Bone spurs can also be seen.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- If you are pregnant. The X-rays may not be safe
- If you
can't remain still during the test. The pictures may not be
- If you are very overweight. This can make it hard to see the
details of the spinal X-ray.