Stress X-rays of the spine are utilized in order to determine areas of ligament damage to the spine with great accuracy.
There are over 220 specialized ligaments that hold the spine together. The spinal ligaments’ job is to hold the spinal bones in optimal alignment at all times including periods of complex movement patterns which occur in our daily activities.
Ideally, ligaments allow complex movement patterns to occur without irritating or interfering with the nerve, which can cause significant problems such as pain, muscle weakness, sensory problems, tingling in the arms, sciatica, headaches, and a myriad of other symptoms.
Stress X-rays allow the doctor to simply take a set or order a set of stress X-rays, which for the cervical spine include flexion and extension views, as well as potentially A to P open mouth lateral bends in order to determine if there is ligament damage in the cranial cervical junction. For the lumbar spine which includes both the A to P and lateral, plus flexion and extension views, ligament damage can cause two serious problems in the spine that can be accurately identified with two different and unique forms of imaging.
Stress X-rays make it possible to locate the excessive motion and MRI picks up any disc herniation. MRI was never designed to pick up excessive motion in the spine and stress X-rays were never designed to pick up disc herniations. They are two completely separate procedures.
However, the findings in stress X-rays actually allows the provider to determine how much soft tissue damage there is to the spine and also to clinically correlate (for if a medical doctor or chiropractor) areas of spinal instability, which may be causing the patient’s symptoms.
These findings are so important that they drive all factors of spinal care and care reimbursements, such as the care plans of chiropractors, physical therapists, orthopedists, osteopaths, neurologists, and invasive spine pain interventions such as spinal injections, ablations, and even surgery.
Because of the significance of the findings ability to drive these care plans, they should be performed by an unbiased, independent trained, board certified medical radiologists, and they should not be performed the treating provider as they may be biased and try to skew the results for reimbursement purposes.
Stress radiology of the spine is vastly improving the ability of the doctors to accurately diagnose spinal ligament injuries so the patient can get the care that they need started and significantly reduce their risk of long term chronic pain that can occur with these types of injuries.