Thermography in Chinese Medicine

By Yuxiang Wang, R.TCMP

Infrared thermal imaging has been used in medicine since the early 1960s. With the technological development of infrared cameras, clear and detailed information about body temperature distribution is now available for medical diagnostics. Thermography has been widely used in many fields of medical practice for the last 20 years. In China, thermal imaging has been applied in Chinese medicine diagnostic procedure.



Thermography can be used

1) to interpret the Chinese medicine theory of ZangFu organs and meridian,

2) to help diagnose disease and syndromes in Chinese medicine

3) for monitoring the efficacy of Chinese medicine treatment.


Definition of thermal imaging

Thermal imaging is regarded as a technique for temperature measurement based on the infrared radiation from objects. Unlike images created by X-ray or proton activation through magnetic resonance, thermal imaging is not related to morphology, the technique provides only a map of the distribution of temperatures on the surface of the objects imaged. However, the surface of the body temperatures indicate the inside nearby blood flow and metabolization, so it is meaningful to consider surface temperature change to interpret internal functional change.

The procedure of thermography practice

Thermography practice is fulfilled with thermal imaging recording, imaging analysis and reporting.

Recording requires a controlled environment (light, temperature), preimaging equilibration, patient positioning, field of view, and image capture. There are some standard procedure for different subjects, such as breast, spine, head, legs, and whole body, to assure accurate recording. Most programs for technicians include 30-60 hours training with practicums.

Analyzing and reporting thermal images should be done by qualified health care providers with a license to diagnose pathology. In North America, there are some training programs for health care providers such as paraspinal thermologists, breast imaging thermologists, and veterinary thermologists. No program exists for Chinese medicine thermologists at this time.

I believe that the most difficult task in Chinese medicine practice is making a clear diagnosis. With the four diagnostic methods there can be many factors to mislead our attention, acquiring incomplete or even wrong information that can conclude with a wrong diagnosis. The introduction of modern technology, providing objective indicators is very important to ensure correct diagnosis.

I have been investigating medical thermography and experimenting with its use in diagnosis for one year. I went to Florida to attend a thermography seminar last August, visited Toronto thermography centers and talked with Dr. Alexander Mostovoy, I learned about Western ideas; however, my specific interest in applying thermography to Chinese medicine diagnosis prompted me to continue my investigation in China.

Last November, I went to China to visit some Chinese medicine hospitals where it is used in diagnosis.

I purchased thermography equipment which contained both Chinese medicine software and Western medicine software from manufacture in China.

After studying both Western and Chinese medical thermography literature, I have begun to record and analyze thermal images of some clients.

In the upcoming seminar  2:30-5pm on Sunday August 13th, 2017, I will share my understanding and experience with applications in Chinese Medicine. I wish to arouse interest. Let us work together to make thermography a more useful tool for Chinese medicine diagnosis.

Information gained through the study of thermography can also be applied even without thermography equipment. The importance of paying attention to body temperature in diagnosis can also be applied through palpation and attention to visual cues.

For more information on the seminar, and to register, please visit our events page