OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the reliability and agreement of digital tender point (TP) examination in chronic low back pain (LBP) patients. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTINGS: Hospital-based validation study. PARTICIPANTS: Among sick-listed LBP patients referred from general practitioners for low back examination and return-to-work intervention, 43 and 39 patients, respectively (18 women, 46%) entered and completed the study. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The reliability was estimated by the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), and agreement was calculated for up to ±3 TPs. Furthermore, the smallest detectable difference was calculated. RESULTS: TP examination was performed twice by two consultants in rheumatology and rehabilitation at 20 min intervals and repeated 1 week later. Intrarater reliability in the more and less experienced rater was ICC 0.84 (95% CI 0.69 to 0.98) and 0.72 (95% CI 0.49 to 0.95), respectively. The figures for inter-rater reliability were intermediate between these figures. In more than 70% of the cases, the raters agreed within ±3 TPs in both men and women and between test days. The smallest detectable difference between raters was 5, and for the more and less experienced rater it was 4 and 6 TPs, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The reliability of digital TP examination ranged from acceptable to excellent, and agreement was good in both men and women. The smallest detectable differences varied from 4 to 6 TPs. Thus, TP examination in our hands was a reliable but not precise instrument. Digital TP examination may be useful in daily clinical practice, but regular use and training sessions are required to secure quality of testing.
Bmj Open, 2013, Vol 3, Issue 2
chronically ill; None; Managers and employees at universities, research institutions etc.