Back Pain: Diagnosis and Imaging
Back Pain: X-ray and CT Scan
Back Pain: MRI Scan

Two of the most commonly used diagnostic imaging procedures are the X-ray and CT scan. Specialists order imaging studies to get an accurate diagnosis and confirm any abnormality that could be the cause of back pain. This article explains the difference between x-ray and CT scan.


One of the most common imaging studies used is called an x-ray or Radiograph. A chiropractor orders an x-ray to evaluate the cause of pain and aid with the diagnosis and treatment. It provides detailed images of the spinal bone structures. It can help to rule out back pain caused by certain injuries or fractures including certain deformities and tumours.  So with a condition such as Spondylolisthesis, the frequency of instability may also be detected.

© Nevit Dilmen [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
An x-ray performs by shooting a beam of radiation through the body. As the bone consists of calcium it prevents the penetration of the radiation beam. The image of the bones appears as a (light coloured) shadow on the x-ray film. X-ray is not able to capture the images of the discs and nerve roots as these do not have calcium.

Women who pregnant are not recommended to undergo x-rays.

CT Scan

A computed tomography scan, also known as CT scan, works similar to an x-ray though in a much more sophisticated way. Similarly, a radiation beam is passed through the body. What is especially relevant, is the possibility to visualise problems in the soft tissues as well as the bone. Cross sectional images of the spine are  then generated using computer imaging. This re-formats the images in multiple planes which is repeated at multiple intervals. So a CT scan is extremely useful in diagnosing back conditions such as lumbar spinal stenosis and lumbar disc herniation. Back Pain: Diagnosis and Imaging
Back Pain: X-ray and CT Scan
Back Pain: MRI Scan

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