September 2016

Myotonometry Reliably Measures Muscle Stiffness in the Thenar and Perineal Muscles

Authors: M. J. Davidson, A. L. Bryant, W. F. Bower, H. C. Frawley

Affiliations: Remarkable Physios Ltd., Wakatipu, Otago 9300, New Zealand

Journal: Physiotherapy Canada , Volume 68 No. 3, Summer 2016 (DOI: 10.3138/ptc.2015-85)

The authors investigated the reliability of myotonometry-measured muscle stiffness in the thenar and perineal muscles.

Participants were women aged 18–50 years who were asymptomatic for thumb and pelvic floor dysfunction (interrater study n=20; intrarater study n=43) or who were symptomatic for vulvodynia (interrater study n=14; intrarater study n=32). Mechanical properties (stiffness, frequency, decrement, relaxation time, and creep) of the muscles were measured using a myotonometer (MyotonPRO) while the muscles were in a relaxed state. Measures were performed twice by two assessors. Intra- and interrater reliability were determined using intra-class correlation coefficients (ICCs) and absolute reliability using the standard error of measurement and a minimum detectable change.

The primary property of interest, muscle stiffness, showed very good interrater (ICC 0.85–0.86) and intrarater (ICC 0.82–0.88) reliability in the thenar eminence. In the perineal muscles, reliability results ranged from good to very good for interrater (ICC 0.70–0.86) and intrarater (ICC 0.80–0.91) reliability for muscle stiffness. Absolute reliability was confirmed, with all measures showing minimal variance.

Muscle stiffness of the smaller muscles of the body can be reliably measured using the MyotonPRO. The device could be used as a reference standard in the development of a digital palpation scale that would facilitate accurate diagnosis of muscle tone.