The Accuracy of Manual Diagnosis for Cervical Zygapophysial Joint Pain Syndromes

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SOURCE:   Med J Aust. 1988 (Mar 7); 148 (5): 233–236

Jull G,  Bogduk N,  Marsland A.

University of Queensland, St Lucia.

The ability of a manipulative therapist to diagnose symptomatic cervical zygapophysial joint syndromes accurately was evaluated in a series of 20 patients. In 11 patients the presence, or absence, of a symptomatic joint was established by means of radiologically-controlled diagnostic nerve blocks. These patients were assessed by the manipulative therapist, without knowledge of the medical diagnosis. Another nine patients were first seen by the manipulative therapist whose diagnosis was then evaluated by means of diagnostic blocks.

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The manipulative therapist identified correctly all 15 patients with proven symptomatic zygapophysial joints, and specified correctly the segmental level of the symptomatic joint. None of the five patients with asymptomatic joints was misdiagnosed as having symptomatic zygapophysial joints. Thus, manual diagnosis by a trained manipulative therapist can be as accurate as can radiologically-controlled diagnostic blocks in the diagnosis of cervical zygapophysial syndromes.

However, before generalized claims about the reliability of manual diagnosis can be made, further studies of this nature are required to validate intertherapist reliability and the ability of manual techniques to diagnose other spinal pain syndromes.