How Thermography Works

Thermography is a diagnostic tool in the differential diagnosis of neuromusculoskeletal injuries – commonly foot and ankle, knee, shoulder, and lumbar and cervical spine – and their prognosis for return to participation and/or competition. Thermography has been recognized as a viable diagnostic tool since 1987 by the AMA council on scientific affairs, the ACA council on Diagnostic Imaging, the Congress of Neurosurgeons in 1988 and in 1990 by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Thermography uses infra-red photography to measure thermal emissions from the skin and subcutaneous tissue. The thermograph is the picture produced. It provides a visual means of identifying areas of inflammation.

It can help determine where your pain is coming from and the best way to treat it. Prompt and more effective treatment may be initiated so that full blown, difficult to manage, chronic disability may be averted.

X-rays, ultrasound, and MRIs are all tests that provide information on the structures found within the body. Thermography is the only imaging technology at this time that is capable of showing physiological changes and metabolic processes. Thermography can often show where the pain is coming from. And there is no exposure to x-rays, nothing to prompt claustrophobic feelings.

  • Thermography is useful for detecting Vein Conditions (deep vein thrombosis, for example)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Visceral Dysfunction
  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
  • Chronic Low Back Pain
  • Headache / Sinus Pain
  • Neck and Back Problems
  • Referred Pain
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Arthritis
  • Skin Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Nerve Injury
  • Sports Injuries

Posttraumatic pain is often associated with complex disturbances of the sympathetic nervous system which also controls microcirculation of the skin. Circulatory skin changes are in turn reflected by altered superficial thermal emission, which can be reliably imaged by thermography. 

How Does Thermography Detect Breast Problems?

The underlying principle by which infrared imaging detects pre-cancerous and cancerous growths is because tumors have an increased blood vessels in order to maintain the increased metabolism of cellular growth and multiplication. With this increased blood-flow comes an increased temperature, even in very small tumors. Abnormalities are often picked-up before a tumor is formed or is seen on mammography.

A woman’s thermal image is like a thumbprint and should not change over time. Serial studies are compared with previous studies for changes. If a women has never had a breast thermogram before, an initial thermogram is performed and then a repeat study is done three months later to establish an accurate baseline. After this, annual thermography can be performed and compared with previous studies. A breast thermogram takes about 20 minutes to do and does not touch or compress the breast, nor is there radiation exposure.

How Does Thermography Detect Pain?

X-rays, CT Scans, Ultrasound, and Magnetic Resonance Scans are all tests of “anatomy” and are measurements of structure of your body. But suppose you have pain that cannot be explained by these studies. Examples are pain due to an occult fracture that does not show up on X-ray, myofascial pain in the muscles, or leg pain related to inflammation in the blood vessels. Perhaps you have pain in the neck, back or head that is unexplained, or you were in an automobile accident but your X-rays were “normal.” Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging is the only method available for visualization of pain and pathology anywhere in the body. When a person is in pain, there are thermal pattern changes that take place in the skin related to activity in the autonomic nervous system. In addition, inflammatory conditions in the soft tissue (these are not seen on x-ray or MRI) will cause changes in thermal patterns. Nerve compression, such as in a “pinched” nerve in the neck or back, causes changes in thermal patterns. Certain diseases such as autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, or toxic metal poisoning may all cause thermal changes