19 Dec X-ray: Neck
Alternative Names: Neck X-ray, Cervical spine X-ray
A neck, or cervical spine, X-ray is done to examine the neck and its structures when there are problems such as neck pain; headache; arm numbness, tingling, or weakness; and injuries. Causes of these problems could include arthritis, a slipped disc (disc herniation), or broken bones (fractures). An X-ray creates images by using radiation, which passes through the body. On the image, air is black, dense structures (e.g. bone) are white, and there are greys in between. You would either lie still on an X-ray table, stand, or sit in a chair while the images are taken. If the problem is possibly a slipped disc and nerve root pressure (where nerves are squeezed by slipped discs), then imaging techniques such as CT or MRI scans may be necessary.
What is it?
An X-ray uses radiation, passed through the body, to create images. The different body structures appear as black, white, and shades of grey. Air is black, very dense structures (like bone) are white, with a range of greys in between.
An X-ray is performed in a radiology facility although some machines are mobile and can be used in hospital wards and operating theatres. An X-ray usually takes less than an hour to perform.
Why is it done?
A neck X-ray is done to examine the neck and its structures.
It is often done to investigate problems such as:
- Neck pain
- Arm numbness, tingling, or weakness
It is often done when considering diagnoses such as:
- Disc herniation (slipped disc)
- Fractures (broken bones)
Before – how to prepare
No special preparation is needed although all jewellery and other metal objects should be removed.
During – how the test is done
You will either lie on an X-ray table, stand, or sit in a chair. You will be asked to move into certain positions and then remain very still while the X-rays are taken. There is no discomfort at all.
After the test
The results will be available a short time after the X-ray has been taken – usually an hour or so, depending on how quickly the radiologist is able to look at, and interpret, the images.
Risks and Compilations
There is a small risk associated with the radiation involved but most experts do not consider this to be a significant problem.
X-rays are not good at visualising soft tissues, such as nerves, and further imaging techniques like CT and MRI scans may be necessary, especially when considering problems such as disc herniation (slipped disc) and nerve root pressure (where nerves are squeezed by slipped discs).
A neck, or cervical spine, X-ray is done to examine the neck and its structures when there are problems such as neck pain; headache; arm numbness, tingling, or weakness; and injuries.
Neck X-ray, Cervical spine X-ray