What is a spine x-ray?

Spine x-rays are pictures of the bones of the spine that are used to diagnose diseases or to view the extent of an injury to the spine. X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation. In an x-ray procedure, a machine sends x-ray radiation through the body or head to create pictures of internal structures projected onto a computer screen or onto film. In those pictures, dense structures, such as bones, show up white because they absorb the x-ray particles, while less-dense structures, such as muscles, show up gray or black.

Spine x-rays can be helpful in diagnosing:
  • osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • abnormal curves of the spine
  • bone spurs
  • fractures
  • cancer
  • infections
  • dislocations
  • disc disease
There are four different types of spine x-rays, depending on which area of the spine is being x-rayed:
  • A cervical spine x-ray is a scan of the seven cervical bones in the neck.
  • A thoracic spine x-ray is a scan of the 12 chest (thoracic) bones.
  • A lumbosacral spine x-ray takes pictures of the five bones of the lower back (lumbar region) and the sacrum at the base of the spine.
  • A sacrum/coccyx x-ray takes a detailed view of the sacrum at the base of the spine and the four bones that make up the tailbone (coccyx).

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