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Thermography Devices


What we term thermography today began in Chiropractic almost at its inception, as our founder DD Palmer spoke of heat in his writings. BJ Palmer and the early practitioners were the ones who put the concept of heat into practice as a tool in the analysis of vertebral subluxation. Interestingly, although the thought of what was being measured in those early years was completely wrong, its application as an objective measure for analysis was, and is, valid, as demonstrated by today’s science and understanding, which we will discuss in next week’s blog.

As the concept of thermography developed over time, the instruments used to detect heat did as well. Often repeated is the story of Hippocrates using mud on the bodies of people to determine hot spots for diagnostic purposes.  Hippocrates’ technique is considered to be the beginning of the use of heat analysis in the “health” field.

Fast forward to the early 1900s and BJ Palmer. Palmer’s technique at the time, the Meric System, used “hot boxes” as part of the analysis. The instrument of choice was the practitioner’s hands; either the palms or backs of the hands were placed bilaterally along the spine, and areas of heat difference were annotated.

A number of years later, in the early 1920s, an engineer by the name of Dossa Evins, working at the Palmer School of Chiropractic, saw an opportunity to improve and objectify the exam.  Evins designed a device, dubbed the NeuroCaloMeter (NCM), that employed the technology of bimetallic thermocouples run through a galvanometer. Similar to the hands, the NCM probes were run along the sides of the spine. Heat differences showed as a deflection of the needle on the galvanometer, towards the hot, or away from the cold side. Results came in arbitrary units called points, showing only the relative temperature differential, and relied on the memory of the technician to remember, interpret, and reproduce with pen and paper the swing of the needle.

NCM technology, coupled with enhancements in recording methods, was employed exclusively through the years by both upper cervical and full spine practitioners. Some still use thermocouple devices today, but mostly in the full spine community, and Gonstead practitioners in particular.

In the 70s and 80s, infrared devices were introduced into the Chiropractic world, and quickly overtook the thermocouple market. Infrared devices developed over the years to become today’s vital clinical tool in evaluating the presence or absence of vertebral subluxation.The dual probe infrared devices used today, coupled with computer technology, give the Chiropractor much more information upon which to base a clinical decision; scans now show not only the relative reading comparing right and left sides like previously employed thermocouple devices, but also provide the absolute temperatures of each side.

Chiropractors using modern thermography devices daily, and both pre- and post- examination on all patients they check, are stepping up the service they provide, the information they obtain, the decisions that they make, the accountability they accept, and the value that they add.

Step up today…

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