An x-ray is a basic but very important diagnostic tool. X-rays are most effective at visualizing bone, but dense soft tissue structures can also be viewed.

X-rays do not penetrate most metallic structures. X-rays can be used to identify fractures, evidence of tumors, evidence of infection and degenerative change. Since a back x-ray may visualize the results of degenerative change in the spine and other areas, surgeons may require multiple back x-rays both before and after surgery.

After surgery, they can view the position of implanted devices and its relationship to the surrounding bony structures. Back x-rays can also give information about the progress of healing after fusion surgery. The amount of radiation the patient is exposed to during diagnostic x-rays is very small.

A back x-ray is usually the first type of imaging used for patients with back or neck pain. Generally, x-rays are not needed until symptoms have persisted for at least four weeks. They may be made sooner if fracture, infection or tumor is suspected.


What to Expect Before the Neck and Back Xray

  • Let your doctor and x-ray technician know if you are pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • You will not usually need to change into a gown.
  • You will be asked to remove all metal objects from your pockets. Jewelry, belts and other clothing items may need to be removed if they are in the area to be x-rayed.

What to Expect During the Neck and Back X-ray

  • Most often for spinal problems, back x-rays are made with the patient standing.
  • The x-ray technician will help you to get into the best position for the imaging.
  • You will be asked to remain still and hold your breath while the x-ray is being taken.
  • Generally, back x-rays are taken from several different views, including from front to back and from the side while bending forward and backward. Based on your diagnosis, other views may be made as well.

What to Expect After the Neck and Back X-ray

  • You will leave the x-ray area and return to the clinic.
  • Your doctor will review the x-rays.
neck x ray