How Do I Know if I Need an X-Ray? Here’s How to Tell

A doctor in a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck holds out and reviews a chest x-ray in her office.

If you are sick, experiencing pain or have had a recent injury, there are various ways that medical professionals can check on your health, rule out possible causes, and provide a more comprehensive and precise diagnosis. One way to do all these things is through x-ray imaging.

At some point in your life, you’ll probably need an x-ray. Whether it’s due to a potentially broken bone or a chest scan to check on a bad cough or cold, x-rays are a fairly common way for doctors and radiologists to get to the bottom of your issue.

While x-rays are used in various ways, it may be hard to determine if you need an x-ray just by your illness, injury or the symptoms you may be experiencing.

It is also important to note that in some cases, like a mammogram, x-rays are used as a preventative measure to ensure you are healthy.

Let’s discuss x-rays in more detail.

What Is an X-Ray, and What Are They Used For?

An x-ray is a form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation that penetrates the body’s surface to provide detailed imaging of a particular area.

Captured x-ray images show body parts in different shades of black and white because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation.

Calcium in bones absorbs x-ray radiation the most, causing bones to appear in the image as white. Fat and other soft tissues absorb less radiation and appear gray. Air absorbs the least amount of radiation, so imaging of the lungs appears black.

X-rays are used to get a closer look at a particular area of the body that cannot be seen by the naked eye. They’re most commonly used for suspected bone fractures but can also be used for a more detailed view of the breasts, lungs, or other organs and tissues.

How Do I Know if I Need an X-Ray?

Determining whether or not you need an x-ray can seem challenging. It is also best to consult with a medical professional about your symptoms so that they may make the proper determination on whether an x-ray may be right for you.

You probably need an x-ray if a medical professional cannot provide an accurate diagnosis by sight or touch, especially if you have

  • Pain in a particular area of the body, especially a limb
  • Difficulty walking
  • Decreased mobility in the arms or legs
  • Joint stiffness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Digestive issues

Common Injuries and Illnesses That May Require an X-Ray

Although your doctor may recommend an x-ray for a number of reasons, outside the most common scope of issues, x-rays are generally required for

  • Sprains
  • Suspected fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Ingestion of a foreign object or substance
  • Kidney stones
  • A healing fracture
  • Bone deformity
  • Misplacement or movement of an implanted medical device
  • Suspected upper respiratory infections such as pneumonia

On-site X-Rays To Meet Your Urgent Care Needs

At Oxford Urgent Care we are here to help you feel better sooner, and one way we can do that is by providing on-site digital x-ray services to give you the best and most accurate diagnosis possible.

If you or a loved one believes they have broken a bone, are experiencing symptoms consistent with pneumonia or bronchitis, or have ingested a foreign object, then an x-ray is highly recommended. Don’t delay much-needed care; get seen today.

We are open seven days a week with no appointment necessary; simply walk in to get the help you need now.