Spine X-Ray Preparation - click for PDFSpine X-Ray Image

For patient safety, patients exceeding the weight limit of 325 lbs. will not be done at London X-Ray Associates.


Passing small, highly controlled amounts of radiation through the body and capturing the resulting shadows on a digital screen creates an x-ray image. Doctors commonly order plain x-rays of the spine. This examination takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

Common Reasons for Plain X-rays of the Spine

Some of the more common reasons why your doctor would order plain x-rays of the spine include:

  • Neck, mid-back, low-back or buttock pain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Pain, numbness or weakness in the arms, trunk or legs
  • Decreased flexibility (range of motion) of the spine
  • Poor posture/suspected curvature of the spine
  • Spinal injury (trauma)
  • Difficulties with bowel or bladder control
  • Further investigation of an abnormality on bone scan
  • Suspicion of spread of cancer

Who should not have Spine X-rays?

Spine x-rays, and indeed all x-ray examinations, should not be performed on pregnant women except when the information provided by the test is vital to treatment of the patient and there are no suitable alternatives.

How do I prepare for the test?

No preparation is required.

Who performs the examination?

An x-ray technologist (someone trained to take x-ray images) performs the examination.

What happens during the examination?

After registering with the receptionist, you may be asked to change into a gown. You will be taken to an x-ray room where several x-ray pictures will be taken. You may be asked to hold your breath for some of the pictures. If you are having x-rays of the neck, 5-7 pictures will be taken. It is customary to take 3 pictures of your mid-back. Two to six pictures of the low back are usually taken. Tailbone (sacrum and coccyx) x-rays usually require 2-3 pictures. You will have to wait while the pictures are checked. A repeat picture is occasionally required.

What are the risks of the procedure?

All x-rays involve receiving a controlled amount of radiation. The risk associated with the radiation received during a single x-ray examination is very small. While the exact likelihood is controversial, there is a very small chance of the radiation contributing to the development of a malignancy many years in the future. The risks involved in everyday activities such as driving a car are far higher. Generally, the risk of not doing the x-ray far outweighs the risk of the small amount of radiation involved.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

The results are interpreted by one of our radiologists (a doctor who specializes in reading x-ray and other images and doing procedures requiring imaging). The results are sent to the doctor who ordered the spine x-ray by courier or fax.

Arrangements to discuss the results of the spine x-ray can be made with the doctor who ordered it.

Are childcare (baby sitting) services available while I have my exam?

No childcare services are available. Please prearrange the following:
Adult supervision in the waiting room must be provided at all times for children while you, the caregiver, are having your exam completed. London X-Ray Associates staff will not be able to provide any childcare needs. We ask that all children be supervised by an adult, other than the patient, while at London X-Ray Associates.
Thank you.