Stability of Paraspinal Thermal Patterns During Acclimation

John Hart, D.C., Associate Professor
Edward F. Owens, Jr., MS, DC


Background: Paraspinal thermography has been used by chiropractors since 1924. One method of its interpretation is with the use of "pattern analysis" - a method that assesses temperature differentials (patterns). This in turn theoretically provides information about nervous system function. When a warm back is exposed to the cooler air in the examining room, the skin temperature in general drops but the differentials could remain fairly constant.

Objective: To determine what changes occur in paraspinal heat patterns when the back is exposed to room temperature.

Study design: Observational; measures repeated at 5 minute intervals for 31 minutes.

Methods: Thirty subjects were scanned with digital infrared thermographic instrumentation every five minutes over a 31-minute period for a total of 7 readings. A computerized calculation of percent similarity between consecutive comparisons of the readings was then performed to determine if and when the pattern stabilized.

Results: Cervical spine temperatures remained constant while lower back temperatures in general decreased for the entire 31 minute recording period. Although the results varied among subjects, on the average the patterns stabilized after 16 minutes.

Conclusions: Once the patient's back is exposed to cooler room temperature, the skin temperature decreases constantly for 31 minutes, however the pattern becomes stable after 16 minutes. Readings taken for the purpose of pattern analysis during this 16-minute period may be unreliable for some patients. Therefore a 16-minute acclimation period is recommended. Further research is needed to not only verify this finding with the same equipment in a separate experiment, but to verify it as well with other types of temperature instrumentation.

Key indexing terms

Chiropractic, vertebral subluxation, assessment, thermography, pattern analysis, acclimation, equilibration.