Sensible advice for aches, pains & injuries
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, Rathbone 2017.

A meta-analysis of very little data on the reliability of finding trigger points by feel

Tags: massage, trigger points doubts, diagnosis, muscle pain, chronic pain, back pain, manual therapy, treatment, muscle, pain problems, spine

PainSci summary of Rathbone 2017?This page is one of thousands in the 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.

This review is called a meta-analysis, which is weird, because “only 1 study met inclusion criteria for intrarater agreement and therefore no meta-analysis was performed.” So it was just a regular old review of 6 studies of how much different experts can agree on the location of myofascial trigger points. Lacking adequate data for statistical pooling, they had to “estimate” an agreement score of 𝛋=0.452 — a rather precise etimate! Of the criteria used to determine the location of trigger points, the most reliable were localized tenderness (.68) and pain recognition (.57). Those are actually decent reliability scores, but the authors conclude that “manual palpation for identification of MTrPs is unreliable.” Based on their estimated scores, this is technically correct but a bit misleading: most attempts to detect pathologies in the body are technically “unreliable,” falling well short of a score of κ=1.0 (perfect agreement), but still much better than κ=0 (coin flipping agreement).

And the error bars on those estimates were too large for a confident conclusion anyway.

Therefore, my conclusion is that this review was mostly inconclusive, but actually found evidence that trigger point reliability is probably not all that bad — as compared to most comparable assessment procedures.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract

OBJECTIVE: To achieve a statistical estimate of the agreement of manual palpation for identification of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) and secondarily to investigate potential factors impacting the agreement of this technique.

METHODS: We searched MEDLINE(R) and Embase for studies examining the reproducibility of manual palpation for the identification of MTrPs from the year 2007 to present. In addition, we utilized studies identified by 2 comprehensive systematic reviews that covered the period before 2007. The included studies were original peer-reviewed research articles and included Cohen κ measures or data with which to calculate Cohen κ. Studies were excluded if they lacked a measure of variability or information required to calculate variability. Studies that examined palpation through body cavities were also excluded. Of the 18 potentially relevant articles only 6 met inclusion criteria including 363 patients. Modified QUADAS tool was used to assess study validity. Subgroup comparisons were made utilizing Q and Z tests.

RESULTS: An estimate of κ=0.452 (95% confidence interval, 0.364-0.540) was obtained for interrater agreement of manual palpation of MTrPs. Localized tenderness (κ=0.676) and pain recognition (κ=0.575) were the most reliable criteria. Only 1 study met inclusion criteria for intrarater agreement and therefore no meta-analysis was performed.

DISCUSSION: Use of manual palpation for identification of MTrPs is unreliable, and future investigation should focus on integration with more reliable techniques.

related content

These five articles on cite Rathbone 2017 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: