Preliminary Report: The thermal characteristics of spinal levels identified as having differential temperature by contact thermocouple measurement

Chiropractic Journal of Australia, August 1994; 24: 139-46

(Nervo Scope)


Objective: To use computer-assisted infrared thermography in an attempt to generate a description of the thermal characteristics of spinal regions identified as having differential temperature by expert users of the Nervo Scope, a contact thermocouple instrument used in chiropractic clinical practice.

Design: Prospective recording of the infrared thermographic images of prepared, stabilised subjects and then alternate presentation by each subject for blinded assessment by two expert users of the Nervo Scope instrument to identify spinal levels where there was agreement of the existence of a clinically relevant entity (known empirically as a “break”) as indicated by the instrument’s response to differential temperature, and then retrospective examination of those levels by computer-assisted analysis of the infrared thermographic images.

Setting: Four rooms within a controlled laboratory setting at The Chiropractic Unit of RMIT University, Melbourne.

Subjects: Eighteen (18) male and thirteen (13) female (n=31) humans with informed consent as volunteers for a late adolescent/young adult student population without any declared clinical symptomatology.

Intervention: Nil.

Main Observations: Five (5) subjects were identified where there was agreement for appropriate evidence of spinal dysfunction at a particular spinal level. Thermal analysis of the paraspinal region about the found levels revealed a left/right difference of typically about 0.3C and no greater than 1.1C, and a series range on any one side of the spine of typically 1.0C and no greater than 1.4C. A particular characteristic was found, namely that an asymmetrical thermal dynamic existed between the paraspinal temperature gradients at these levels, meaning that the skin temperature varied asymmetrically, with one side falling while the other side increased.

Conclusion: The circular graphs (radar plots) of the data clearly demonstrate the presence of an asymmetrical thermal dynamic which may, if replicated in other laboratories, represent an objective dimension of spinal dysfunction, or in more common terms, the subluxation complex.