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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Walker 2015.

Examiners could not find the same problems using spinal motion palpation

updated
Walker BF, Koppenhaver SL, Stomski NJ, Hebert JJ. Interrater Reliability of Motion Palpation in the Thoracic Spine. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015:6. PubMed #26170883.
Tags: diagnosis, bad news, spinal adjustment, back pain, neck, spine, treatment, pain problems, head/neck

PainSci summary of Walker 2015?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for typical studies with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Two examiners, using standard methods of motion palpation of the thoracic spine, could not agree well on the location of joint stiffness or pain in a couple dozen patients. Simplifying the diagnostic challenge did not improve matters. Therefore, “The results for interrater reliability were poor for motion restriction and pain.” This does not bode well for manual therapists who use motion palpation to identify patients who might benefit from spinal manipulative therapy.

The study only used two examiners, which might be a serious flaw. More raters would certainly be better. Nevertheless, even a small data sample can produce meaningful information if the effect size is robust enough (any two people can agree on, say, fire hydrant locations; see It's the effect size, stupid), which it probably is here. Even just two examiners should generate more similar results, unless someone is grossly incompetent. If they differ greatly, more examiners probably isn’t going to change that.

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

INTRODUCTION: Manual therapists commonly use assessments of intervertebral motion to determine the need for spinal manipulation, but the reliability of these procedures demonstrates conflicting results. The objectives of this study were to investigate the interrater reliability of thoracic spine motion palpation for perceived joint restriction and pain.

METHODS: Twenty-five participants between the ages of 18 and 70, with or without mid-back pain, were enrolled. Two raters motion palpated marked T5–T12 levels using two methods (standardised and pragmatic) and noted any restricted or painful segments. We calculated agreement between two raters by generating raw agreement percentages and Kappa coefficients with 95% confidence intervals.

RESULTS: There was poor to low level of agreement between the raters for both joint stiffness and pain localization using both pragmatic and standardized approaches. The results did not improve significantly when we conducted a post hoc analysis where three spinal levels were collapsed as one and right and left sides were also combined.

CONCLUSIONS: The results for interrater reliability were poor for motion restriction and pain. These findings may have unfavourable implications for all manual therapists who use motion palpation to select patients appropriate for spinal manipulation.

related content

These three articles on PainScience.com cite Walker 2015 as a source:


This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: