Objective: Paraspinal thermal scanning has been utilized by chiropractors to characterize vertebral subluxation and monitor the outcome of chiropractic intervention since the profession’s inception. Thermal scanning has been shown to be a valid and reliable procedure for measuring paraspinal temperatures and clinical studies to explore the clinical meaningfulness of these measures have been conducted. The objective of this paper was to review the literature on paraspinal thermal scanning in chiropractic practice related to subluxation.
Methods: A search of the chiropractic literature was performed via the Index to Chiropractic Literature and PubMed along with hand and stack searches of relevant papers found through reference sections of already gathered papers. Only papers dealing with the utilization of thermography in relation to chiropractic and vertebral subluxation or related concepts were included.
Results: 72 papers were found to meet these guidelines and were made the subject of this review. The existing literature on reliability of paraspinal thermal scanning shows good to excellent reliability for the technique and issues related to interpreter reliability and computerized analysis are being addressed. While some authors have inappropriately interpreted the thermal literature, basic and advanced concepts related to its clinical meaningfulness such as pattern analysis, health perception and the use of thermal scanning as an outcome assessment tool in the management of vertebral subluxation, have a formidable evidence base from which to draw.
Conclusion: For those interested in the use of paraspinal thermal scanning as an outcome assessment tool for addressing vertebral subluxation the focus of research now needs to shift. There are several areas that need to be further explored including the issues related to reliability of interpretation, the clinical utility of pattern analysis, and the relationship between thermal readings and health outcomes. Link to PDF version
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