What Does Your Pain Look Like?

by Peter on July 6, 2010

Thermal Imaging

Two years ago I felt some frustration with assessing and diagnosing a few of my patients who were experiencing pain and were not getting any relief from treatment. It was at this time I stumbled upon thermography, a medical science the derives diagnostic information from highly detailed and sensitive infrared images of the human body. Our office purchased this highly sensitive infrared camera and we have never looked back since. Now, some 1500 hundred images later I am still amazed how precise this technology is.

Thermography is a completely non-invasive and non-contact procedure that takes approximately 10 to 25 minutes to complete. No form of waves are transmitted to the body. The camera, the size of a small video camera, is able to “see” infrared “heat” energy emitted from your body. And unlike X-Ray, MRI or CT scans designed to capture anatomical information, medical infrared technology is designed to capture physiological information.

So why choose to have thermal imaging? In order to accurately determine the best and most efficient way to treat your chronic pain, we need as much information as we can get. MRI’s and such are excellent ways to see what the structures are like, but not all pain is from the structure itself. Thermographic images show the natural superficial heat emission of the skin and accurately represents it’s temperature. The temperature of the skin is complex and is influenced by small blood vessels which are regulated by the autonomic nervous system, namely the sympathetic and parasympathetic system.

Skin temperature is also affected by larger blood vessels and the metabolic characteristics of deeper tissues. This energy is then reflected on the skin surface and seen in the thermal image taken. Using this knowledge we can diagnosis and monitor treatment, especially those chronic conditions in which we are influencing the nervous system.

This method of infrared technology helps particularly well with neuromuscular and skeletal conditions. When muscle tissue is strained or torn it causes increased heat. The heat patterns not only tell us the source of the probable injury, but can also tell us about the areas of possible compensation in another parts of the body.

Nerve damage, as occurs in disc herniation and spinal nerve root compression displays on the thermographic map in exactly the opposite direction as muscle injury by revealing cool areas of hypothermia in the nerve tracts coming from the spine. In this way, thermography can demonstrate and document permanency of spinal injuries which are causing a person disability. This documentary, not diagnostic aspect of thermography has been used for many years in the trial courts to prove injury and assist in the rating of permanent impairment.

We all should have a thermal image of ourselves in our medical file whether we are in pain or not. In this way we have a base picture of your body that we can refer back to in times of ill health or injury. And keeping an ongoing image every year may just help us treat you more effectively in your later years.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any question or concerns regarding thermal imaging.

In Health,

Peter Roach, RMT, CNMT, Laser Therapist

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