Funds sought for physiotherapy breakthrough

Physiotherapist Steve Tumilty is hoping to raise $25,000 to buy an infrared thermography camera....
Physiotherapist Steve Tumilty is hoping to raise $25,000 to buy an infrared thermography camera. Photo: SHarron Bennett
Musculoskeletal physiotherapy specialist Steve Tumilty has turned to crowdfunding to raise money for an infrared thermography camera which he says could lead to some "game-changing" information.

Dunedin-based Dr Tumilty hopes to raise $25,000 through the PledgeMe campaign, saying he had been a "bit stalled" on funding.

"Unfortunately government funding for new ideas such as this is scarce and difficult to come by. I’ve been working in this area for many years, and decided to take matters into my own hands," he said.

A physiotherapist for more than 27 years, Dr Tumilty has been in Dunedin since 2002 and is one of only eight registered physiotherapy specialists in New Zealand.

He is a clinician as well as an academic and teaches in the masters degree programme in musculoskeletal specialisation at the University of Otago.

His crowdfunding quest was  as an individual and he hoped, if successful, the camera could be used to build evidence to convince government funding agencies to fund larger and more robust trials into the use of that technology in healthcare.

Skin temperatures could be an indicator of the processes taking place within the body, and could show where injuries were before they became painful.

The camera would provide a non-invasive and non-radiating tool to document and research those physiological processes.

It would be used to research projects that related to establishing base normal temperatures, diagnostics on athletes during a season and the relationship between skin temperature and the nervous system, among many other proposed projects.

"Our preliminary findings show we might need to completely change the way we manage musculoskeletal problems. We have already established a number of firsts with regards to physiotherapy interventions," he said.

The findings would aim to give clinicians the confidence to make better decisions using infrared thermography, and establish a solid research base.

Dr Tumilty was an experienced researcher, contributing to more than 70 article and conference presentations, and receiving awards.

He liked "pushing the boundaries" of healthcare research, and answering questions generated from physical practice. Government research funding was finite and aligned with government priorities. That made it very difficult to explore new avenues of research without a significant body of evidence to support future investigations, he said.

"It’s a frustration. In a small country like New Zealand with a limited budget, we are competing on the world stage where one little firm in America has probably got 10 times the amount of money New Zealand has to spend in this area."

Research was supposed to "look at things we don’t know". But great strides would not be made because  thinking "out in the left field" did not necessarily get funded, he said.

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