When Do I Need to Get an X-Ray at Urgent Care?


If you’ve ever broken a bone, there’s a great chance you also had an x-ray taken. This type of medical imaging is essential for helping doctors diagnose fractures as well as several other types of illness and injury. Of course, an x-ray isn’t necessary for everyone.

The type of injury you sustained or the symptoms you are experiencing will help your provider decide if an x-ray is needed. Since November 5-11 is National Radiologic Technology Week, now is a great time to recap some common reasons for needing an x-ray and why getting an x-ray at urgent care is a good choice.

Do I Need an X-Ray?

X-rays use a quick burst of electromagnetic radiation to help paint a picture of the inside of your body. The calcium in your bones absorbs most of the radiation from the x-ray, so they appear white on the final picture while soft tissues and organs look darker.

Your doctor can use this picture to help diagnose your injury or illness and determine the right course of treatment. Here are a few conditions that may leave you asking, “Do I need an x-ray?”

1. Broken Bones (Fractures)

Fractures are the most common reason for doctors to prescribe an x-ray. When you break a bone, you might know right away due to symptoms like deformity or bruising. Other times, you might not be able to tell a broken bone apart from a severe strain or sprain. This is especially true for areas like the wrist or ankle, which are susceptible to both types of injury. An x-ray lets the doctor see the injury and determine if a fracture has occurred so they can prescribe the right treatment.

2. Dislocated Joints

A dislocation occurs when part of a bone is pushed or pulled out of the joint it normally sits in. This can happen to both small joints, like the fingers, as well as larger joints like the shoulder or knee. When you have a dislocated joint, the doctor will likely prescribe an x-ray to confirm the injury. An x-ray also helps determine if you have any broken bones or additional damage to the affected joint.

3. Respiratory Injuries & Pneumonia

When most people think about x-rays, it’s for an injury to a bone. But doctors can also use a chest x-ray to diagnose pneumonia or a collapsed lung (called a pneumothorax). This rapid and non-invasive test is an important tool that helps doctors correctly identify your condition and start the right treatment quickly.

4. Swallowed Items

Children love to eat things they shouldn’t. From coins to Legos, an x-ray can reveal if your child has eaten something other than food. Often, if a child complains of stomach pain and their parent isn’t sure if they’ve ingested something, an x-ray can be ordered to know for sure.

Is Getting an X-Ray Dangerous?

Since getting an x-ray involves radiation, many people are concerned about being exposed during the test. Fortunately, getting an x-ray is very safe.

According to the National Library of Medicine, an x-ray only exposes you to about the same amount of radiation you’d encounter in the environment over 10 days. When getting an x-ray, your doctor will also use a lead apron and/or neck guard to protect your reproductive organs and thyroid gland from unnecessary exposure.

Although x-rays are quite safe and have an incredibly low risk of side effects, be sure to talk with your provider if you have any concerns.

Can I Get an X-Ray at Urgent Care?

Yes! Going to urgent care for an x-ray is a great way to get seen quickly and start getting treatment for your illness or injury.

You can get an x-ray at urgent care without an appointment at most locations, making this a convenient and fast choice. Waiting for a non-emergency x-ray at the ER could take hours. Plus, visiting urgent care for an x-ray can also be much cheaper than going to the emergency room.

Of course, if you’re having an emergency or suffer an injury that needs emergent care, you should go to the nearest ER right away. For injuries that need immediate care but aren’t life-threatening, urgent care can help!

Ultimately, your provider will determine if you need an x-ray based on their training and expertise. But if you think you have an injury or illness that might require an x-ray, be sure to come in and get it checked out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Velocity Urgent Care is Here to Help

If you have an illness or injury that needs an x-ray, Velocity Urgent Care is here for you! Each of our convenient locations across Virginia offers x-ray services without an appointment.

When you need urgent care for a broken bone, dislocation, or any other illness or injury, just walk in for fast, high-quality treatment. You can also make an appointment with our online registration portal to skip the waiting room and arrive when it’s your turn to be seen. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure each of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible.

All our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome.

To learn more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.