Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Why Did My Chiropractor Fail to
Get a Good X-ray after Eight Tries?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

My chiropractor could not get an x-ray of my right hip area. After eight tries over three weeks, he said the eighth x-ray was good enough but not near what it should be. The x-rays were literally white. You could, however, see the codes and numbers used to identify and file the film. All the other x-rays he took of me were fine.

My question is: What would cause this? The chiropractor said there was not a film or exposure problem. The treatment I got from him did help immensely.

Answer

It sounds like the x-ray films were not adequately exposed—that is, the x-ray beams did not penetrate your body enough to expose the film. It seems likely that the "right hip area" you have described was a low-back problem and the chiropractor was attempting to get a lateral (side) view of your lumbar spine. The x-ray tubes of some small office x-ray machines are weak to penetrate the lower back and hips in a side view, especially in a large or heavy person. Failure to get an adequately exposed x-ray film in eight tries means that you cannot rely upon the x-ray facilities of this chiropractor for a diagnosis.

You should discontinue treatment when the pain resolves. If the pain persists, have your back x-rayed at a medical radiology facility or at the office of an orthopedist. Some chiropractors do not have the x-ray facilities needed to produce high-quality imaging, and few have the expertise needed to interpret x-ray findings when there is a tumor or exotic disease.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This article was posted on May 9, 2003.