Thermographic Assessment of the Forearm During Data Entry Tasks: A Reliability Study

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Virginia Tech


Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) negatively impact worker's health, ability to work, and their quality of life. Non-invasive methods for assessing the physiological responses to workload may provide information on physiological markers leading to increased risk of WMSDs. The following study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of using thermography to quantify differences in thermal readings of participants during and following a data entry task and assess the repeatability of thermal readings. Skin surface temperature measurements of the dorsal forearm were obtained from 12 participants (6 females, 6 males) during a data entry task (35 minutes) and a 30-minute post-task period. Participants also reported their perceived forearm discomfort during data entry and recovery. Three forearm analysis regions were analyzed based on statistical findings; Upper Left, Lower Left and Right regions. Temperature trends were found to increase during data entry and decrease during recovery. The Upper Left region was warmer during both data entry and recovery phases in comparison to the other regions. Repeatability of surface temperatures, based on intraclass correlations (ICCs), was found to be fair for magnitudes and trends during data entry, and poor for magnitudes and trends during recovery, despite higher significant correlations in the latter. Positive correlations were evident between subjective feelings of forearm discomfort trends and temperature trends in response to workload. No gender differences were found with regard to temperature measurements. This work contributes to the understanding of surface responses of the forearm during and following an applied stress, and to the literature supporting thermography as a non-invasive evaluative tool for assessing physiological responses during job tasks.



thermography, thermal imaging, data entry, forearm, musculoskeletal disorders