Types, Reasons, Preparation and Procedure For Conducting Back or Spinal X-Rays

Submitted on March 27, 2012

These are pictures of the spine that are taken to find out if there is any disease or any injuries in the joints or the discs of the spine. The injuries could include disc disease, bone spurs, tumors, dislocations, infections, and spinal fractures. Scoliosis back X-ray is done to check scoliosis or the curvature of the spine or for spinal defects.

Back or Spinal X-Rays

Back pain X-rays are radiation that is focused in a beam and can pass through the human body. The pictures created by the X-rays strike a detector and send a picture to the computer or expose a film. Bones and dense tissues in the body can absorb some of the X-rays and that's why they look white on a picture. Other tissues that are less dense look grey on the X-ray picture.

The spine has 33 bones in the vertebrae. There are discs or pads of cartilage between the bones to cushion the bones in cases of shock. This also enables the movement. The spinal bones form a canal.

Types of Back X-Rays

There are four types of X-rays used depending upon the four parts of the spine.

  • Cervical spine X-ray: This test is for the seven cervical or neck bones.
  • Thoraic spine X-ray: This X-ray is for the thoracic or the twelve chest bones.
  • Lumbosacral spine X-ray: This is for the sacrum or the five fused bones below the spine, and the lumbar vertebrae or lower back.
  • Sacrum/coccyx X-ray: This test is for the coccyx or the four small bones of the tailbone, and the sacrum or the five fused bones at the base of the spine.
  • The LS-spine films and the C-spine films are the most common spinal X-rays.

Reasons Why They are Conducted

The reason for a spinal or back X-ray:

  • It is used to find the reason behind ongoing weakness, numbness or pain.
  • This X-ray can see if there is arthritis of the joints or if the discs are degenerating.
  • Check for dislocations or fractures of the spine.
  • Check for bone spurs, tumors, and infections.
  • To check for abnormal curvature of the spine.
  • Check for congenital spinal problems like spina bifida.
  • To check for healing and changes after a spinal surgery.


You must tell your doctor if you are pregnant, or if you have had another X-ray that used barium contrast material.


A spinal X-ray will be done by a technologist and the pictures will be interpreted by a radiologist. The procedure will take about 15 minutes.