Intra-rater reliability of an experienced physiotherapist in locating myofascial trigger points in upper trapezius muscle

Marco Barbero, Paolo Bertoli, Corrado Cescon, Fiona Macmillan, Fiona Coutts, Roberto Gatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are considered the principal clinical feature of myofascial pain syndrome (MPS). An MTrP consists of spot tenderness within a taut band of muscle fibers and its stimulation can produce both local and referred pain. The clinical diagnosis of MPS depends on correct history taking and a physical examination aimed at identifying the presence of MTrP. The purpose of this study was to investigate the intra-rater reliability of a palpation protocol used for locating an MTrP in the upper trapezius muscle. Methods: Twenty-four subjects with MTrP in the upper trapezius muscle were examined by an experienced physiotherapist. During each of eight experimental sessions, subjects were examined twice in randomized order using a palpation protocol. An anatomical landmark system was defined and the MTrP location established using X and Y values. Results: The intraclass correlation coefficient ICC (1,1) values were 0.62 (95% CI: 0.30-0.81) for X and 0.81 (95% CI: 0.61-0.91) for Y. The Bland-Altman plots for X and Y showed a mean of difference of 0.04 and 20.2 mm, respectively. Limits of agreement for X ranged from 226.3 to 26.2 mm and for Y from 227 to 26.4 mm. Discussion: The ICC(1,1) for the observed values revealed a moderate to high correlation and the Bland- Altman analysis showed means of difference very close to zero with narrow limits of agreement. An experienced physiotherapist can reliably identify MTrP locations in upper trapezius muscle using a palpation protocol. W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2012.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Intra-rater reliability
  • Myofascial pain syndromes
  • Myofascial trigger points
  • Palpation
  • Upper trapezius muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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