Often at Chicago Chiropractic we are asked if X-rays are safe or harmful to a person’s health. If you want the complete story read on but the short answer follows. Found from the FDA, it is estimated that radiation exposure from a chest ray is roughly equivalent to the background radiation you are exposed to in 10 ordinary days on planet Earth. Interesting right?
On the FDA’s website you will see they state, “Don’t refuse an X-ray. The risk of not having a needed X-ray is greater than the small risk of radiation.” Keep this in mind if your practitioner is suggesting a much needed X-ray for your health.
A chiropractic x-ray and any other type of x-ray denotes no difference. While x-ray equipment does vary slightly by manufacturer, what really matters is the body part being imaged. Different body tissues absorb radiation in different ways.
To provide consumers with a way of monitoring radiation exposure across multiple sources, the FDA uses an effective dosage scale. Each type of x-ray has an effective dosage associated with it measured in millisieverts (mSv). Since millisieverts isn’t a unit of measure most people are familiar with (like a mile or a teaspoon), having a reference value helps put the numbers in context. The FDA estimates that the average person is exposed to 3.0 millisieverts of radiation per year from naturally occurring radioactive materials and cosmic rays. That’s what allows them to state that a 0.1 millisievert dosage from a chest x-ray is equivalent to about 10 days of background radiation exposure.
Compared to a chest x-ray, x-rays of the extremities (arms and legs) have a much lower effective dosage and x-rays of the lower torso have a higher effective dosage. Recall that the effective dosage comes mainly from the body part being imaged not the intensity or duration of the x-ray machine pulse. Here’s a summary of effective dosages and background radiation equivalents for the various types of x-rays a chiropractor is likely to recommend:
• Extremities – 0.001 mSv – similar to 3 hours background radiation
• Chest – 0.1 mSv – similar to 10 days background radiation
• Spine – 1.5 mSv – similar to 6 months background radiation
The FDA website and the excellent radiologyinfo.org website from the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America both point out that disease risks from radiation exposure are cumulative across time and that patients play a critical role in tracking their own exposure levels. Since you may be working with multiple health care providers in different specialty areas, you should keep a log of your exposures. Here is a link to a site where you can download a personal Patient Medical Imaging Record: http://imagewisely.org/Patients.aspx
Note that this article refers to effective exposures and recommendations for adults. If you are pregnant or looking for x-ray safety information for children, visit imagegently.org
Contact your Chicago chiropractor, Dr. Michael Kauf at 312-337-4004 today to schedule your appointment.