Digital mapping of shoulder pain in patients with shoulder disorders: a reliability study

Shellie Ann Boudreau*, Thomas Linding Jakobsen, Bjarki Þór Haraldsson, Mikkel Bek Clausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Digital body mapping can be used to document and quantify the area and location (distribution) of pain and discomfort and support assessment, monitoring, and treatment in clinical populations. This study determines the test-retest reliability of drawings detailing pain and pins and needles using digital body charts and their relationship to pain intensity and patient-reported shoulder function.

METHODS: Sixty-two participants with shoulder disorder completed pain and pins and needles drawings with test-retest interval of 30 minutes. Pain intensity in the last week and the patient-reported shoulder function questionnaires were completed. Area and radiating extent were determined using customized software. To assess relative and absolute test-retest reliability, the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC3,1), standard error of measurement (SEM) and minimal detectable change (MDC95) were calculated. Regression analysis evaluated relation between area and radiating extent of pain and pins and needles with patient-reported function questionnaires.

RESULTS: Relative reliability for pain area and radiating extent was excellent (>0.90). Absolute reliability (SEM and MDC95) values for the pain area and radiating extent were 0.20%/34 pixels and 0.57%/94 pixels. Absolute reliability improves for smaller pain areas. Regression analysis revealed the area and radiation extent for both pain and pins and needles are independent constructs to the patient-reported function outcome when adjusted for pain intensity.

CONCLUSIONS: Digital body mapping assessing pain area and radiation extent in patients with shoulder disorders are reliable. The magnitude of absolute reliability suggests other sources of variability on repeat testing in this population. Pain area and radiation extent appear to be independent constructs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jan 2024


  • Pain drawings
  • digital body mapping
  • frozen shoulder
  • reliability
  • shoulder disorders
  • shoulder fracture
  • subacromial impingement


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