X-ray of the cervical spine – important nuances of the procedure

Experts call the cervical spine the most active and vulnerable part of the human spine. The muscle corset, which performs a protective function, is not strong enough in this area.

That is why, in this part of the skeleton, various injuries and deformations most often occur, which entail not only a decrease in motor activity, but also disturbances in the blood circulation of the brain.

In modern medicine, it is possible to diagnose diseases such as bruises, sprains, and osteochondrosis using an X-ray of the cervical spine.

This hardware method is simple, accessible and informative. The equipment necessary for the procedure is available in a medical institution in each locality.

Hospitals of all levels are equipped with X-ray equipment, so every patient with certain symptoms indicating pathology can be diagnosed.

When to do an X-ray of the cervical spine

X-rays are prescribed for a wide variety of symptoms:

  • discomfort in the neck when turning the head;
  • headaches of unknown origin (possibly, their cause is osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the cervical spine);
  • damage to the neck;
  • pain in the hands of unknown origin;
  • suspicions of the development of degenerative diseases of the cervical spine;
  • pathologies of an infectious nature that can harm the spine;
  • some other pathologies.

Quite often, it is X-ray that is the only way to establish a diagnosis, to exclude diseases that are similar in their symptoms.

What the diagnostics can show

Manipulation allows the specialist to confirm or rule out the following diseases:

  • pathological deformities in the joints of the intervertebral discs;
  • arthritis;
  • inflammatory processes;
  • tumors;
  • cervical lordosis;
  • dislocations;
  • cervical sciatica;
  • pathological kyphosis.

X-ray of the neck is prescribed for headaches, the cause of which cannot be determined, pain in the hands, as well as for suspicions of several diseases with similar symptoms.

Note: X-ray examination is aimed exclusively at identifying pathologies of bones and joints. It is impossible to examine the soft tissues during the procedure. In such situations, the patient is assigned a computed tomogram.

Despite the fact that this type of diagnosis is more expensive, in certain cases only with its help the only correct diagnosis is established and the treatment system is determined.


Cervical X-ray is a simple procedure, the patient does not need to specially prepare.

Before manipulation, the patient should undress to the waist and remove jewelry. Some medical institutions issue special gowns.

Any metal objects on the patient’s clothing can distort the results of the procedure.

Note: if an X-ray is prescribed during pregnancy (the procedure is not performed during pregnancy, but in exceptional cases it cannot be done without it), it is important to provide all precautions so that the exposure to hazardous radiation on the baby is minimal.

How is the procedure done

The cervical spine is considered by specialists to be quite specific. In order to study its state in as much detail as possible, you need to take a snapshot in several projections:

  • front;
  • side.

To perform the procedure, lie down on your side and then on your back. The main difficulty of manipulation is that a person must remain motionless for some time until the doctor takes the required number of pictures.

Any incorrect movement or incorrect position of the patient during the procedure can lead to the fact that the results will be inaccurate and the real picture of the state of health will be distorted. It is difficult to review and correctly interpret X-rays if their quality is poor. Accordingly, therapy adequate to the diagnosis will not be prescribed.

In some cases, in order to make the pictures more visual and informative, the procedure is performed through the patient’s oral cavity.

The duration of all manipulations does not exceed a quarter of an hour. The main condition is to listen carefully and clearly fulfill all the requests of the specialist. The patient does not experience any discomfort during the X-ray.

Neck X-ray with functional tests

This procedure is performed to identify unnatural, painful forms of mobility of the vertebrae, their displacement, as well as painful mobility of functional blocks.

In case of displacement of the vertebrae, the specialist makes the initial diagnosis – osteochondrosis. In some cases, this is the only sign by which the doctor can identify the development of pathology. However, it is impossible to confirm the diagnosis using conventional radiography. In such situations, an X-ray of the cervical spine with functional tests is prescribed.

During the procedure, the specialist determines the degree of displacement and damage to the vertebrae, as well as how deformed the anterior wall of the spine.

During the manipulation, the patient is asked to take different positions, which significantly increases the information content of the diagnosis and the clarity of the images obtained. As a result, the doctor can investigate the patient’s problem in detail.

The specialist makes conclusions about the nature of the pathology and its severity based on the change in the height of the anterior spine in comparison with the posterior, which is clearly visible in the photographs.

The procedure is painless. The only inconvenience the patient may experience is associated with the cool air temperature in the room where the x-ray is taken. This is due to the provision of the necessary conditions for the operation of the X-ray equipment.

Note: the examination results must be examined by a specialist radiologist, he makes the appropriate conclusions, describes the image. Based on these data, the attending physician makes a diagnosis and selects an individual course of therapy for the patient.

Features of the examination for a child

Experts note that this type of X-ray can be performed even for young children. During the manipulation, it is possible to identify pathologies of the baby’s development, acquired diseases, for example, the following:

  • pathology of an orthopedic nature;
  • asymmetrical muscle tone;
  • subluxation;
  • displacement of the vertebrae;
  • instability of the cervical spine.

The procedure for the procedure in children is no different from the X-ray in adult patients. The child must remain motionless while lying down. Pictures are taken in two projections. Since we are talking about small children, it is not always possible to perform an x-ray through the mouth. Such a diagnosis is prescribed for children over three years old.

Many parents are suspicious of X-ray diagnostics, believing that radiation from this medical equipment can harm the child’s health and negatively affect the further development of the baby.

Doctors point out that such a statement is somewhat outdated, because modern medical equipment is not only highly functional, but also has the best protective systems. Thus, any studies, including X-rays, become safe even for an unformed child’s body.

It should also be noted that the duration of the X-ray examination is short, during this time it is simply impossible to cause any harm to health, since the person receives the minimum dose of radiation. Of course, not all medical institutions are equipped with modern equipment of the latest generation.

Therefore, if parents for some reason doubt the safety of the prescribed procedure, they can always find a private clinic or a multidisciplinary medical center, where the diagnostics will be carried out with minimal impact on the child’s body.

Before signing up for diagnostics, you need to inquire about the equipment model, the manufacturer’s reliability, the provided degree of protection.

Also, parents have the right to ask a specialist to mark the dose of radiation received in the baby’s outpatient card. Thus, the doctor will determine exactly when the procedure can be repeated next time if necessary.

In cases of injuries or diseases of the cervical spine, specialists very often prescribe an X-ray examination. Timely diagnosis is the key to detecting the disease at the earliest stage of development, which means that the required course of therapy will not require a long time and will be as effective as possible.

The cost of diagnostics varies from 500 rubles to 2000 rubles and depends on several factors:

  • the city where the patient lives;
  • clinic status;
  • quality of equipment.


There are few contraindications to the examination:

  • pregnancy (in the most difficult situations, the examination is carried out in compliance with all precautions);
  • a neck x-ray should not be performed on patients who had a barium x-ray less than four hours ago;
  • excess weight makes it difficult to obtain high-quality images, as a rule, there is not enough information to determine the diagnosis and further treatment.

The maximum weight for diagnostics is limited to 180 kilograms.

It is important to take into account that X-ray of the neck is ineffective and uninformative in diagnosing tumors and muscle stretching. If such diagnoses are suspected, another examination is prescribed.

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