How much X-rays is too much?

"I have back pain and have been asked to get an x-ray of my spine. I was wondering how will I know if I am being over-exposed to x-rays? What about MRIs? " - Casey Q

Hi Casey,
Generally speaking, X-rays are relatively safe. However, if you feel that you have been taking a lot of scans lately and are worried about risks to things like cancer, here is a site ( that is a pretty good guide at estimating your risks to x-rays. It takes into consideration of your age and history of cumulative exposure. 

As to your second question, MRIs or Magnetic Resonance Imaging use magentic fields and radio waves to produce an image. They don't use ionising radiation like x-rays or CT scans.

Generally, as a guide we prefer to use imaging to confirm a diagnosis, not find one. Meaning we have an idea or two about what's behind the problem. Then we employ imaging to confirm or dis-confirm that hypothesis. We recently wrote about Diagnose First, Scan Second



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