Can you trust your X-Rays? – A Physio’s Perspective
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Can you trust your X-Rays? – A Physio’s Perspective

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Many people are loyal to the technology and/or evidence that an XRay scan may present, but can we trust them? Often they are presented by a trustworthy doctor in a lab coat, but what is a physiotherapist perspective on how to read them?

It is likely that your doctor will request you get an XRay or when treating you for spinal or peripheral joint injury. The results of these reports may be quite daunting, especially when they are filled with medical terminology. Don’t be alarmed.  

An XRay isn’t always an accurate indication of the cause of an injury or the level of pain. 

In most cases, XRays will show common signs of degeneration, which is totally normal. There are 4 types of degenerative changes that are commonly shown in spinal XRay results.  

Spondylosis: Essentially this is wear and tear of the spinal bones, a type of osteoarthritis most likely brought on by the natural ageing process or by your lifestyle. 

Stenosis: This is where there is a narrowing of the space where your spinal cord sits. The pain is generally around the neck or the lower back. Some people can be born with this whilst others develop it through natural degeneration.

Spondylolysis: At the point your spinal joints (facet joints) meet your spine there is an area of bone which is named the interarticularis. This condition is when there is a small defect to that piece of bone, generally a small separation. It mainly affects the lower part of your back and can affect one side or both sides. If this condition worsens it can develop into Spondylolythesis.

Spondylolythesis: Essentially it is where one vertebrae (spinal bone) slips over the top of another. It is more common in women over the age of 50 and is most likely to affect the lower 4 levels of the lumbar spine. It can start in childhood due to repetitive movements within sport mainly lower back extension( gymnasts, dancers, high jumpers) but symptoms may not show until later in life. 


As physiotherapists although we are unable to stop degeneration from taking place and sadly we cannot reverse what has already occurred we can help you manage your symptoms and pain. Alongside the advice of your GP for pain relief physiotherapy can help manage both pain and symptoms of spinal degeneration with massage, stretching, joint mobilisations, neural gliding, anti-inflammatory modalities, acupuncture strength, and conditioning as well as advice on activity modification for both work and at home. 

If you believe you have these degenerative changes or you have X-ray results you’d like to talk through, we’d be more than happy to help.


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