Validation of a pain mechanism classification system (PMCS) in physical therapy practice

Melissa C. Kolski*, Annie O’Connor, Krista Van Der Laan, Jungwha Lee, Allan J. Kozlowski, Anne Deutsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to validate the clinical application of a pain mechanism classification system (PMCS) in clinical practice. We analyzed data abstracted from the medical records of patients who were treated in the outpatient clinics of a large urban rehabilitation hospital in Chicago. We hypothesized that there would be good agreement between the PMCS determined by trained therapists and the PMCS category assigned based on a computer-generated statistical model using patients’ signs and symptoms. Using cluster analysis, when we assumed five groups, 97% of patients could be classified. Sensitivity and specificity results with 95% confidence intervals were calculated for the categories using the physical therapist assigned categories (PMCS) as the criterion standard. Sensitivity for four of the five categories (inflammatory, ischemia, peripheral neurogenic, and other ranged from 72·0 to 83·1%). For the central mechanism, sensitivity was much lower at 15%. Specificity for the five categories ranged from 72·4% (ischemia) to 98·8% (central). This study provides empirical support for recent findings in the literature that the peripheral components of a PMCS can be implemented consistently in an outpatient pain clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-199
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 7 2016


  • Classification
  • Pain
  • Pain mechanisms
  • Physical therapy
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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