Infrared thermography can help detect joint inflammation and help improving work ergonomics, according to a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland.
All objects with a temperature above absolute zero emit infrared radiation as a result of the thermal motion of their molecules. Infrared thermography (IRT) is an imaging modality that can be used to detect this thermal radiation. Human skin emits infrared radiation almost like a perfect black body, and IRT is thus well suited for the measurement of skin temperature. However, although the human core temperature may be indicative of several bodily dysfunctions, there is still a lack of scientific evidence about which musculoskeletal diseases or conditions can be diagnosed by evaluating skin surface temperature with IRT. Nonetheless, since it is a non-invasive and straightforward technique, IRT may represent a cost-effective alternative to the more traditional imaging modalities.
The study evaluated the capability of IRT to detect inflammation in knee and ankle joints in children, and found that skin surface temperatures were significantly elevated in inflamed ankle joints, but not in inflamed knee joints. This means that IRT can be used as a tool for detecting joint inflammation in ankle joints; however, further research is needed to determine whether IRT can be used to detect inflammation in knee joints.