Paraspinal Infrared Thermography - what is it?
Paraspinal Infrared Thermography is the primary measure of physiology and adaptation we use in our practice and has been widely used in Upper Cervical Chiropractic practice and research for many years now. So what is it?
Paraspinal simply means, either side of the spine. Infrared describes the means by which we measure temperature. And the word Thermography means that we interpret the data about the heat signatures using a digital graph. In summary we measure heat signatures either side of the spine using infrared technology and read the data as a graph. Simple right? So why is this important to measure, interpret, and understand when it comes to the patients we see?
Skin temperature is one of the oldest forms of measuring physiology and pathological indicators. This practice dates back 2500 years to one of the fathers of modern medicine, Hippocrates. He was said to have used a slurry of mud over the skin and observed which areas dried fastest to assess heat levels of the skin. Since then the technology has vastly evolved and thankfully we no longer cover patients in mud.
The idea to use skin temperature as a measure of adaptability for Chiropractic purposes was first implemented by the founder of Chiropractic DD Palmer. He would simply use the back of his hand to feel for “hot boxes” along the spine, indicating possible neural dysfunction. Albeit this was a crude measure it laid the foundation of the technology we use today. His son BJ Palmer, the developer of Chiropractic, patented the first tool for measuring these heat readings. The Neurocalometer could measure temperature of both sides of the spine simultaneously thus allowing for comparison. Later BJ would attach a graphing unit to the device allowing him to record the temperature differentials, the Neurocalograph was born. Years later as the technology improved we now implement digitalised versions of what BJ was using as well as more sensitive measuring devices.
His study of the printouts from the Neurocalograph revealed that unique patterns would develop indicating the lost adaptability of the specific individual. Current research shows that thermal variability in humans is a sign of a healthy system. The presence of repeating thermal physiological pattern is a sign of pathologic function. This is how paraspinal infrared thermography allows for assessment of lost adaptability when repeating pattern develops over multiple scans. The pattern measured is unique to the individual and cannot be compared between patients. When pattern is present it indicates a specific Chiropractic Adjustment is needed determined by the other parts of our Chiropractic analysis. Therefore, thermography indicates when an adjustment is indicated, not where. If the adjustment is successful the pattern will no longer be present when a reading is taken post-intervention.
How is measuring skin temperature related to the nervous system? Each spinal nerve innervates an area of skin over that level of the spine on the same side. Studies out of Johns Hopkins Medical School established acceptable differentials between areas of skin on each side of the body based on dermatomes. When these differentials are exceeded it denotes neurologic problems at that spinal level. Reliability studies showed that the thermal values were reproducible in the short and long term follow-up over a period of 5 years. Other research indicated that the reliability increased when measurements were taken closer to the spine, making paraspinal measurements the most accurate way to assess this.
Time has shown the utility of paraspinal thermography as it has been used in Chiropractic for nearly a century now. It has only become more reliable as technology has advanced and we now have higher quality research. At Top Chiropractic UK we pride ourselves on using this state of the art technology with high quality analysis in order to provide the best standard of care for our patients.