University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Objective assessment of joint stiffness: A Clinically oriented hardware & software device with an application to the shoulder joint


McQuade KJ, Price R, Liu N, Ciol MA



Publication Info:

Journal of Novel Physiotherapies, 2(7):122


Examination of articular joints is largely based on subjective assessment of the “end-feel” of the joint in response to manually applied forces at different joint orientations. This technical report aims to describe the development of an objective method to examine joints in general, with specific application to the shoulder, and suitable for clinical use. We adapted existing hardware and developed laptop-based software to objectively record the force/displacement behavior of the glenohumeral joint during three common manual joint examination tests with the arm in six positions. An electromagnetic tracking system recorded three-dimensional positions of sensors attached to a clinician examiner and a patient. A hand-held force transducer recorded manually applied translational forces. The force and joint displacement were time-synchronized and the joint stiffness was calculated as a quantitative representation of the joint “end-feel.” A methodology and specific system checks were developed to enhance clinical testing reproducibility and precision. The device and testing protocol were tested on 31 subjects (15 with healthy shoulders, and 16 with a variety of shoulder impairments). Results describe the stiffness responses, and demonstrate the feasibility of using the device and methods in clinical settings.

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