Intraobserver Reliability of Cranial Strain Patterns as Evaluated by Osteopathic Physicians: A Pilot Study

Kelly D. Halma, DO; Brian F. Degenhardt, DO; Karen T. Snider, DO; Jane C. Johnson, MA; M. Schaun Flaim, DO; and Danielle Bradshaw, OMS
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: November 27, 2006

Accepted: June 14, 2007

Published: September 1, 2008

J Osteopath Med; 108(9): 493-502

Context: Few studies of inter- or intraobserver reliability have focused on evaluations of cranial strain patterns.

Objectives: To determine whether substantial intraobserver reliability can be achieved by osteopathic physicians (DOs) using common palpatory tests to diagnose cranial dysfunction.

Methods: Forty-eight subjects were divided into three diagnostic groups, categorized as those with asthma, headaches, or neither asthma nor headaches (ie, healthy control group). Two blinded DO examiners separately evaluated approximately 8 subjects from each group (4 subjects per session), conducting diagnostic tests for cranial rhythmic impulse (CRI) rate, cranial strain patterns, and quadrants of restriction.

Results: Overall, among the three diagnostic procedures, cranial strain patterns showed the highest intraobserver reliability (κ=0.67). The highest intraobserver reliability was achieved in cranial strain patterns for the control group (κ=0.82), followed by the headache (κ=0.67) and asthma (κ=0.52) groups. Diagnoses of the left anterior quadrant of restriction also showed substantial intraobserver reliability for the headache and control groups (κ=0.60 and 0.61, respectively). Diagnoses of three quadrants of restriction showed moderate overall intraobserver reliability (κ=0.44-0.52), while the left posterior quadrant had only fair overall intraobserver reliability (κ=0.33).

Conclusions: Osteopathic physicians can obtain substantial intraobserver reliability when diagnosing cranial strain patterns in healthy subjects as well as those with asthma or headache. However, results are less promising for diagnoses of CRI and quadrants of restriction.

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