Reliability and Validity of a Pressure Algometer

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Algometers are devices that can be used to identify the pressure and/or force eliciting a pressure-pain threshold. It has been noted in pressure-pain threshold studies that the rate at which manual force is applied should be consistent to provide the greatest reliability. This study tested the reliability and construct validity of an algometer (1000-Hz sampling rate) by manually applying pressure on a force plate (500-Hz sampling rate): 10 sets of 5 applications to 80 N and 1 set of 5 applications to each force level: 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, and 110 N. The investigator had previously become familiar with and practiced with the algometer. The handheld algometer had a 1-cm2 round rubber application surface, and the maximum force reading was compared with maximum force readings by the force plate using SEM and t-tests. Force-time curves were analyzed for average slope representing rate of force application. Average Pearson (r) correlations between the maximum force reading of the algometer and force plate were excellent in both trials to 80 N (r = 0.990) and the incremental trials (r = 0.999). The application of force was reasonably constant, with slopes averaging 6.8 ± 0.932 N·s−1. The SEE was 0.323 N. In conclusion, with previous familiarization and practice, an investigator may have high reliability in the rate of force application. The device itself was also highly correlated with readings from a force plate and, therefore, may be considered valid.