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Back X-ray

Reasons to Get One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

A back X-ray, also called a spinal X-ray, is typically performed to diagnose or rule out a range of conditions, including back or neck fractures, arthritis, spondylolisthesis (also referred to as “slipping” of vertebrae), tumors, scoliosis, or congenital abnormalities of the spine. It should be noted that lower back pain is typically caused from strains of the lower back muscles, which cannot be diagnosed using an X-ray.

The spine is made up of 33 individual vertebrae which are separated by spongy disks. If you’re ordered a back X-ray, it will typically only be of one part of the back, or spine. And the spine is made up of five different areas, which, from top to bottom, include the:

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  • Cervical area – This area is actually in your neck, but it is the beginning part of the spine, made up of seven vertebrae.
  • Thoracic area – The largest area of the spine, the thoracic spine is composed of 12 vertebrae.
  • Lumbar area – Located in the lower back, this area consists of five vertebrae.
  • Sacrum – This area is composed of five fused, small vertebrae.
  • Coccyx – More commonly referred to as the tailbone, this area of the spine is made up of four vertebrae fused together to made up one bone.

X-rays are fast, convenient, and virtually take no preparation from the patient. However, if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, be sure to tell the radiologist or medical provider prior to the X-ray being taken.