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June 20th, 2011
07:33 AM ET

Is it normal to feel an X-ray?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Karen from Ontario, Canada

I have had several dental x-rays within the past 3 to 4 years, as I have had braces, and other dental problems that have needed x-rays in order to deal with the problems. When I had my 3-D scan last summer I felt fuzzy for at least a day after the x-ray. Now again I had an X-ray three days ago, and I still feel very fuzzy and not all there. Is it normal to actually feel the effects of an x-ray?

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. To best help you, I consulted with Dr. Richard Woodcock at Northwest Radiology Consultants in Atlanta.

Dr. Woodcock shares the following information: X-rays and radiation certainly may have effects on your body, and rarely may be felt in special circumstances.

However, those effects are not typically felt right away for plain x-rays - even multiple ones - unless there was something unusual about the exam or equipment.

The types of symptoms experienced that would show up right away would be related to skin injury, possibly even skin burns, but that is very uncommon.

Also, those are usually caused by long exposures to X-ray, such as with cardiac catheterization or specialized CT scans to look at blood vessels or the heart, or rarely due to problems with the equipment.

Radiologists, physicists and the medical profession, in general, continue to learn about long-term effects that can result from multiple episodes of radiation exposure.

Such effects are usually at the molecular level and not felt by individuals as such. In short, it is unlikely that your symptoms were related to the X-rays themselves, but perhaps could have been related to other parts of your visits, such as your position or other treatment and evaluation.

A good resource is the American College of Radiology patient info page and as always you can consult with your physician if you have more questions or concerns.

Follow Dr. Shu on Twitter


soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Cindy H

    Dear Karen,

    No, it's all in your head. Now stop asking questions.

    Sincerely,
    Allopathic Medicine

    June 20, 2011 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carlos

      I have had X-Rays multiple times on my lower back and can feel a tingle in the area being X-rayed every time. I have had other body parts X-rayed such has jaw and foot, and never felt the same sensation. It is real, immediate, and lasts only as li\ong as the X-ray. It has never ben painful, and has never been felt "after" the X-ray.

      June 20, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse |
    • Ronin

      What kind of response was that?

      June 20, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse |
    • MollyT

      Hahaha! Too true.

      October 3, 2016 at 18:41 | Report abuse |
  2. ShrinkWrap

    So people now claim they can feel x-rays huh? Does this only happen at the doctor's office, or do they feel every x-ray that hits them? You people do know that we are bombarded with a variety of ionizing radiation, including x-rays constantly, both from space and from earth. Can you feel each of those x-ray impacts as well?

    How do you know that the "sensation" only lasts as long as the x-rays? That means your mind must know the x-ray is being taken, and you know the duration of the imaging process. If you know all of these things, then the most likely explanation would be that your brain is "making up" these feelings. It's all in your head.

    The best way to test it would be to x-ray you without your knowledge (but with your consent) and see if you feel THOSE x-rays. You won't.

    June 20, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • swanson

      it must be nice to know everything

      June 20, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • tinhorn

      to be fair, most x-rays are blocked by our atmosphere.

      June 21, 2011 at 19:48 | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      It's not just a mental thing. I also can feel xray. I wasn't the one receiving the xray. The person receiving it was about 12' away. I felt a pulse travel through my body starting from the side nearest the machine. I got dizzy and a slight headache. The machine was activated twice and both times I was dizzy while it was active. The headache subsided a few minutes later. Also a few years I received an MRI and again could feel a penetration at the location of the scan.

      January 15, 2018 at 18:07 | Report abuse |
  3. Mitch

    Is there a change of routine the days that X-rays are taken? Any additional medication taken at the doctor such as anesthesia? Did you avoid or drink additional alcohol or use a mouthwash with alcohol that you do not normally use. Do you have trouble sleeping or have a fast racing heart the night before the doctor or dentist visit? Does getting to the doctor's office require extra physical exertion?

    June 20, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Melissa

    ha ha ha You people are RIDICULOUS (those who claim they can "feel" the x-ray). I totally agree with shrinkwrap. By the way, did you know that there are levels of radiation in bananas, and granite? If you feel anything while having an x-ray taken, its from the oscillating grid thats built in the xray table, or upright x-ray plate. Dummies

    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/bio-effects-radiation.html

    June 20, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      I hate the arrogance of people like you and Shrinkwrap. These people are inquiring about xrays from a medical office. I am 60 yrs old and have numerous xrays from sports injuries. I had four xrays taken today and felt a weird sensation in the area of the xray each time. Never have I ever felt this before and told the tech of the sensation after the first xray. She said that someone else had mentioned that the same day but couldn't explain it. A little unnerving to say the least. I don't know if it was the xray or something associated with a componet of the xray machine, but that it only occured for an instant when the xray was taken. The patients first thought is that they received an over exposure of radiation. I have worked around large electrical devices for a number of years and know that an electro-magnetic field can cause weird sensations to the body. Since you seem to be an expert on this matter, why don't you explain the oscillating grid. Is there an electro-magnetic field that builds during the xray. Something like that might explain what the patient is feeling. When you so-called self-proclamed experts dismiss everything the patient felt as being in their head it appears that you truly have no idea or that your trying to covering your ass. I know too many smart asses that have too few solutions or answers

      December 19, 2012 at 00:09 | Report abuse |
  5. rtbrno65

    As long as your shadow isn't burned into the wall behind you you should be fine.

    June 20, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Don't Mock

    Don't mock, but think. First the concentration of radiation is stronger in x-rays then in other sources (that's why the medical personel go outside of the room or wear lead aprons people – if they got exposed each time they took an x-ray they'd risk cancer). Second, in a world full of billions of people it is illogical to assume everyone reacts in the same way. My sister felt it as well for a few days – she has poor health in general. So consider it might be that certain people are more vunerable, that their bodies can't handle it as well as a normal person. Keep in mind that many medical conditions were thought by doctors to be "all in their heads" simply because it was outside of the doctors' expectations. Is it more intelligent to wonder what it is, or to dismiss out of hand because it doesn't fit certain preconcieved notions? Which is more scientific in approach?

    June 20, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kim

      I would agree with you to not mock, but think. However what i can tell you is this....it isnt in the patient's head...but there is a logical explanation for what she "thinks" she is feeling. Dental x rays..im going with 1. did she have work done...hence anesthesia? Or 2..... in my 15 years experience as a tech (not a doc just putting it out there) people sometimes say they feel pain in their teeth when they actually have a sinus infection (maxillary sinuses..next to nose)..also causes dizziness/fuzziness. As far a tingle during back x ray.....buckey movement or sciatic nerve acting up on flat hard table (also a complaint from patients w/back injury..cant lie flat) What im saying is that i would be very confident that there is an underlying medical condition.....and I am going with this...there is no way your feeling an xray..your exposed all day..everyday to x radiation..unless of course you live in a lead cave!

      June 20, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
  7. REGISTERED RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGIST

    We all get high anxiety/paranoid patients like Karen and Carlos all the time. It's people who have absolutely zero knowledge of radiation physics or medicine but will always call into question the credibility of the tech doing the scan or the MD ordering it who actually do. A more interesting question is what does someone who can feel xrays do for a living and what schools did they attend? Did they drive themselves to the office or even dress themselves this morning? Giving these people a platform makes our jobs a litlle bit harder.....but only a little bit and thats ok. ALARA!

    June 20, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • teresa, sno-hio

      all hail to the highly reputable Registered Radiologic Technologist !!! care to tell us what the hell you're doing hiding behind a wall
      and running away when you click the button for an xray? Who's calling who paranoid? You are very insulting and you shame the profession. The Doctor in paragraph TWO eluded to the opinion there COULD be a reason this person feels xrays. So if the person who asked this is a quadraplegic and didnt dress or drive themselves to the dr.'s office, they are merely the type who makes your job more difficult? boohoo for you.

      June 20, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
    • kim

      Exactly..we techs need to stick together. I love theresa being sarcastic and attacking you....only showing her ignorance. FYI Theresa...the doc is paragraph two is referring to effects of radiation that one would experience if say they lived in Chernobyl. An X-ray is painless and invisible....sorry..you cant feel, smell or see one!! and for the record you get the same dose of radiation on a flight from NY to Fla as you would from one chest X-ray. As far as us hiding behind a wall, we can do upwards of 30 to 50 patients a day...imagine all that exposure compared to you who maybe gets an x ray once a year..so instead of attacking...say thank you to your next "R.T" You may one day need a barium enema.....sounds like you already do your so full of it!!! ALARA my friends who know what it means!!! peace!!!

      June 20, 2011 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
  8. Dave S

    "The X-ray machine is the most insidious machine in a doctor's office" quote by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn author of "The Medical Heretic" and former head of a large hospital. They try to tell you that your dental X-ray exposes you to no more radiation than 30 minutes in the Sun. However they don't tell you that your less than 1 second X-ray gives you that 30 minutes all at once. So what you say? Have you ever drank a quart of whiskey? What happens if you have an ounce a couple times a day over 2 weeks or so? Well you'll probably be a bit more relaxed. But consume that same quart in 10 minutes and what happens? Most average people would have about a 50% chance of dying from consuming that much that fast. The time ratio is the SAME as the ratio of your dental X-ray to that 30 minutes of Sun. Do you see why that common statement from your dentist is complete nonsense?

    June 20, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TRH

      Don't make up numbers that aren't related to support your argument. Seriously. You may have the best point in the universe but when you make up statistics and relate physical processes that are unrelated to support your argument you just end up sounding dumb.

      To my knowledge there have been ZERO studies relating the processing rate of alcohol in the body to the processing rate of x-rays in the body. In fact, the lack of such a study around the rate of X-ray exposure is exactly what WOULD support your point.

      Instead you relate apples to oranges and just diminish any validity you may have had.

      Furthermore, there's the whole "Most average people would have about a 50% chance of dying from consuming that much that fast." Would you care to cite the studies done here? 24 shots in 10 minutes would likely take a 180lb man up past .50% BAC which would actually be far deadlier than you're suggesting. Again, making up numbers is just hurting your case.

      I'd suggest citing specific studies, or leaving numbers out of your OPINION based argument.

      June 20, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
  9. Fiery Buddha

    My hands are sensitive to tumors, so why shouldn't we be able to feel x-rays and other imaging methods? It has to be powerful stuff to penetrate our flesh.

    June 20, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. McCain-in-4

    Most times, Dental X-Rays are preceded by a clicking/buzzing sound. That could be the source of some anxiety-based hypersensitivity for the duration of the click/buzzing sound. You will "feel" the x-rays because you expect to "feel" them, and any warm sensation could be properly attributed to x-ray exposure. It is for you & your dentist or doctor to decide the health benefits and to calm your anxiety.

    June 20, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. teresa, sno-hio

    I would say it isnt NORMAL to have have those effects, BUT, I would say I believe you when you say you feel different afterwards. Everyone has different levels of sensitivities in our bodies. No two are alike. I would DEFINITELY limit the amount of xrays I get, if I were you... You actually may be onto something and I would research it some. Maybe you have sensitivities to the cardboard props put in your mouth? Maybe having your mouth / jaw open for so long causes the fluid in your ears to redistribute and make you fuzzyish for a day? 99% of people will tell you that you are wrong. I'm in the group that believes you.

    June 20, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. John B

    It's not the X-rays that made you feel strange honey, it was the radio wave radiation from your cell phone.

    I swear, this country is getting dumber by the second.

    June 20, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike Varney

      Yeah.. regression to the mean... with the mean regressing.
      scientificilliteracy.blogspot.com/

      June 20, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  13. CdnITWorker

    I am not claiming that I can feel x-rays, but the last two times I had an x-ray on my arm, the hair on my arm stood up when the machine was taking the x-ray (you know, when the buzz sound happens). I am inclined to believe that some people can feel something, but whether it is the actual x-rays, the vibrations of the equipment or something else, I have no idea.

    June 20, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike Varney

      Probably the same response I get when I listen to a kick ass piece of music. Goosebumps.
      You are just having a sympathetic nervous response to the sound, and whatever hangups and fears you have of x-rays.

      June 20, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
  14. Dizzy

    I feel light-headed after x-rays at the dentist’s office. This occurs before receiving any other treatment (Novocain, gas, etc.). I get the same feeling at work when I use the high watt microwave oven. I have confirmed the microwave over many uses plus/minus other outside stimulus. I love how everyone attacks and declares with ultimate certainty how other people feel things. I happen to be in touch with my body (biorhythms). I can control my breathing and heart rate. I am also very much aware when outside stimulus brings changes to my body (light, temperature, electrical charges, radio frequencies).

    June 21, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cate

    Karen, you are not alone. I feel x-rays too. I had a bone density scan a couple of years ago and I was very aware of the proceedure. Some of us are more sensitive to these things than others. Because they can't feel them they call US crazy. Kinesthetic types are more aware of their bodies than visuals and auditories. We account for only 10% of the population so of course there is no way what we feel (deeply) can be valid to the others.

    June 21, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sammy

    i don't think you can feel the x-ray or radiation.
    http:/www.danodentalarts.com

    July 3, 2011 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jeff

    It is amazing how many people think they know more about x-ray radiation than professionally trained people.

    July 14, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lindsy

    I too feel nauseated and light headed after an x-ray. My blood pressure gets low and i just feel fuzzy in the head. Last time it happened I was getting a panoramic x-ray done of my teeth so I could get my wisdom teeth out. Not sure why it happens, but it is defiantly uncomfortable.

    July 21, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hairie

      After graduation, I spent part of the suemmr in Colorado, working at Young Life Camp. Then it was off to William Woods College, where I pledged a sorority (Alpha Phi) and graduated as an Art Education major, with a minor in French. Unable to find a full-time teaching position, I was hired by HOK Architects (St. Louis) as a graphic designer. I got married, and then I got divorced. I met my current husband at HOK; Greg is a landscape architect/land planner, and we just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. I have been very fortunate to have worked at some amazing firms, including RTKL (Baltimore) and Walt Disney World Design and Engineering (Orlando). Greg and I lived for 18 years in Columbia, Maryland, where we raised our daughter, Stephanie, and where I was a Girl Scout leader for many, many years (all 18 of my girls earned their Gold Award, which is like Eagle Scout for Boy Scouts). Our daughter graduated from Salisbury University, and is now an RN at Baptist Hospital, Miami. Four years ago, Greg accepted a position running the Miami office of EDAW/AECOM, so we packed up our two American bulldogs and four cats and made the big move to South Miami. Currently, I am a senior designer with TGA Design (Coral Gables); we specialize in signage/graphics programs for the cruise ship industry, and have just completed work on Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ships in the world (lots of signs!). Life has been good.

      August 2, 2012 at 02:57 | Report abuse |
  19. Thena

    Back in scohol, I\'m doing so much learning.

    December 25, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. totmkb

    Qy7nOT wluqdlxrnqiz

    December 26, 2011 at 03:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. ngpjaewfrn

    CfE73G hpkajayynmbs

    December 28, 2011 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. I Must be another quack according to most here!

    I understand that most of you think those that feel x-rays are making it up or that it is in there head, I wonder if all x-ray machines are the same quality as for my first time today, I was given multiple x-rays of my chest area with 2 of them coming out black with just the slightest outline so they had to retake them, but when I was standing forward with my back against the machine, when they took both of those x-ray's both of my feet tingled both times and it was actually a pleasant tickle type feeling that I commented on and the Dr. actually asked me to explain myself. all other ones that came out normal did not cause that affect – I'm sure you will all state that was in my head as well – so this is more for the ones that had the same experience – you are not crazy – I can't believe that those of you that call your self professionals would ever speak to patients or people in general like that. thank you.

    August 8, 2012 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jane

    I have experienced significant skin flushing that lasted for hours following a physical exam. This was not a reaction to gloves or any other material factor. I remain convinced that it was due to the type of (negative) energy transmitted through the physician's hands. Following 3 xray views yesterday, I could feel a displacement of energy. From a scientific viewpoint, why would this seem improbable, or even "crazy"?

    But more to the point is that the first word from physician's mouths should, more often than not, be "No." to needless xrays and CT scans, when there is insufficient clinical evidence to warrant these procedures. Rather than conducting a thorough clinical exm, physicians are ordering potentially damaging radiation imaging as the first line.

    The experts who post here would do better to unite to decrease the number of orders for such needless imaging. In what a patient thinks may be an emegercy situation, it is all the more important that physicians are firm. Concern about lawsuits is no excuse. I would bet there are more lawsuits from overtreatment than potential undertreatment.

    December 11, 2013 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. DP

    Reading the comments here I see a small group of people who seem to know everything about nothing, and ridicule the experience someone has gone through. So for THOSE people who read this...it's all in YOUR head. I went in for a chest xray, and the technician should not be doing what she should know inside out. The proceedure is one front and one side xray. After the first front xray, the technician ran up to me and pushed me against the screen I was standing in front of and says " I have to get another because that one did not come out " . I did not know the difference at the time and she took another. Then when she did my side, I felt a wave come from my right side through me to my left, a force like a brush of wind that went through me. I expressed what I felt right after it happened and she laughed and said " it wasn't that strong " . Yeah it's funny...it just could not happen....I called poision control and they said "It must be all in your head" . But after that, my chest felt strange. I experienced this same kind of feeling from a microwave oven. We use one of the models that hang underneath the cabinet. I was cooking on the range and I went to smell the food in the skillet. My head was under the microwave and my wife turned it on to warm something up. A wave came from that thing and went through my head. I freaked out and told my wife to put her head under it but she would not. My son however did it, and now he listens to me about a lot of different things. Maybe this xray machine sent out that same kind of thing the microwave did, but my head did not feel anything after the microwave blast. I since have replaced the microwave but still have not tried the brain electrocution test....it feels like your head is getting plugged into the wall outlet....or if you have ever touched a live 120v with your hand. But it is however unfortunate that we have people who say they want to help us, and decieve many for the sake of lining their pockets.

    February 22, 2016 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Technologist Tom

    Well DP since your going to make strong statements about what your tech should be doing, allow me to elaborate a bit on your scientifically sound observations. I consulted all three volumes of Merrill's atlas of Radiographic positions and Radiologic Procedures and couldn't find an example of a front or a side x-ray, I am surprised because you seem to know what you are writing about so authoritatively. Using my best estimations deduced from your explanations I will presume that you are referring to a standard two view chest x-ray consisting of one upright posterio-anterior chest x-ray and one left lateral upright x-ray against a Potter-Bucky oscillating scatter reduction grid at a source to image distance of seventy two inches (although you didn't specify I presume you are relating an experience in an American facility, hence the old English standard of measurement, and not the metric system). You probably were exposed using a kilovolt peak of between 110 and 120, or did it feel like more than that? How many miliampere seconds did your technologist use? What did it feel like? Could it have been 5, 10, 15, 20? I'm sure you're aware of the geometric shape distortions and magnifications at play when you manipulate the object to image distance, which is why I don't understand when you didn't press your chest firmly against the screen the first time, or were you trying to clip your own anatomy from the image because you wanted a repeat experience. I'll bet it was just so you could see "the technician ran up to me and pushed me against the screen I was standing in front of and says " I have to get another because that one did not come out ". Was the radiation you experienced a skin dose? Was it roentgen, rem, gray? Relax, I'm just playing with you, we all know that you can't feel any diiference between x-rays and microwaves, they are pretty much the same thing as you know (and your son too). What you were surely feeling in rapid relay from your right side through your left was a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) reformulation (mutation) in your thoracic parenchymal cells to either form an acute terminal cancer or give you extra human capacity for strength, telekinesis, and time travel. In either case I envy you, for you are a rare human indeed.

    April 12, 2016 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Chago

    I had something similar happen to me. I had 8 biles of blood taken and a 3D imaging scan done within a 2-hour time frame. So I made a little digging.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003052.htm
    Health-good!

    November 16, 2016 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. daneen

    Every time I get an X-ray on any part ofmy body I am left with that bone in that area that was X-rayed suffering excruciating pain for days. It's now been almost two month of pain in knee for an X-ray I had of my ankle . only this time it swelled badly too. I have gotten a thermal burn from an MRI before that took forever to heal and felt like the spot was cooked from the inside out. Why would I react this way to X-rays?

    November 9, 2017 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. jay

    I just had an back and hip X-ray and I felt the wave or pulse as it hit my body , it felt like a static charge I was laying on a plastic table and it is winter and dry

    March 15, 2018 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Name*delia

    I just had 2 chest xrays done 3 days ago and for the last 2 days I've been feeling very off. It feels almost like I have been sunburnt, my mouth and eyes are extremely dry (i need to drink water all the time), in the evening I get pins and needles all over my body as soon as I'm laying down for more than 5 minutes. My skin on my arms feels like I rubbed menthol all over it.
    I was also at my period and it should have finished, but I've had extra bleeding and still on my period now.
    I've had xrays done before and never felt this

    June 22, 2018 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mimi

    I had a dental panoramic x-ray today and I had a tingling sensation on the right side of the neck and on my torso as the machine was rotating. I had panoramic x-rays many times in the past but this was the first time that happened to me.

    September 3, 2019 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply

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