A doctor will often request an X-ray if the initial examination of the patient results in a possible bone dislocation, fracture, or break. An x-ray will show the condition of the bone and any damage that may be present. Although an x-ray will not show damage to the soft tissues of the body, it will give the doctor an idea of what other problems may be causing or aggravating the patient's pain. Anytime a patient complains of bone or joint pain, the doctor will request an x-ray of the area in question. An x-ray will also be performed towards the end of a treatment plan to ensure the patient has sufficiently healed enough to resume their daily activities or return to the playing field.
An x-ray will not show the same types of injuries as an MRI or CT scan. X-rays primarily show damage or alterations to the bones and connective tissue. An x-ray emits radiation that is absorbed by the dense bone and connective tissues. It is the radiation that is seen in the x-rays. If a bone is broken, the area where the bone is damaged will not hold the radiation and will appear as a lighter colored area on the film. Because the soft tissues do not hold the radiation, they will not appear on the film except as a shadowy area. X-rays will not show bruising or damage to the soft tissues of the skin. They will, however, show damage to the connective tissues that hold the muscles to the bone.
X-rays do emit small amounts of radiation. The amount of radiation an x-ray releases is not enough to cause damage to the tissues or the bones. Although the amount of radiation emitted during an x-ray will vary depending on what is being examined. The benefits of an x-ray will often overshadow the risk of exposure to the small amount of radiation. A person is exposed to higher levels of radiation in their home environment through the soil's natural release of radon gas. Doctors claim that a person can receive three or more chest x-rays a year without a noticeable increase in radiation exposure.
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