While X-Rays cannot show any soft tissue damage to muscles, tendons, or ligaments, they can provide a wealth of information that may explain certain injuries that eventually show up on an MRI. Small fractures or splinters of bone that don't necessarily constitute a "break" will appear on an x-ray. X-rays can also show degeneration of the bone that is being caused either by a congenital defect, by advanced age, or due to an injury that did not heal properly. A degenerative bone disease may be the result of conditions like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. It is well-known that x-rays show breaks in bones, but they also show various types of damage that can provide clues to other things that are going on within the body.
For years people were under the impression that x-rays were dangerous due to the levels of radiation used to create the images. In most cases, the amount of radiation used in x-rays is relatively low. Overexposure to radiation caused by x-rays is rare. Children are likely to be more sensitive to the radiation than adults. X-rays on different areas of the body will require more radiation than others. For example, dental x-rays use the least amount of radiation per exposure. In most cases, the information that an x-ray provides will be more valuable and worth the minimal risk of radiation exposure.
X-rays are often ordered to determine if there is any damage or deterioration to the bones or bony structures in a specific area. When a person receives an injury and the possibility of a break is minimal, an x-ray may still provide valuable information. A small chip or splinter may indicate a torn tendon or ligament, eliminating the need for a more expensive MRI. X-rays are often requested if a person has pain but few signs of soft tissue damage. Doctors may also request an x-ray if there is a head injury. Head injuries can show problems within the structure of the skull, as well as the alignment of the neck. These types of injuries may not be apparent in an MRI.