How Many 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. Here is a site ( that is a pretty good guide at estimating your risks to X-rays. This is especially if you feel that you have been taking many scans lately. You may also be worried about risks such as cancer. 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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