How is somatic dysfunction diagnosed?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Somatic dysfunction is diagnosed by evaluating the presence of four specific criteria known as TART: tissue texture abnormality, asymmetry, restriction of motion, and tenderness. These criteria help determine if there is an abnormality or dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system.

To begin the diagnostic process, a healthcare provider will first assess the tissue texture of the area in question. This involves palpating the tissues and noting any abnormalities such as changes in temperature, texture, or consistency. For example, if there is an area of increased warmth or swelling, it may indicate inflammation or tissue damage.

Next, the provider will evaluate for any asymmetry. This involves comparing one side of the body or specific structures to the other side. Any noticeable differences in size, shape, or position can indicate somatic dysfunction. For instance, if one shoulder is higher than the other or if there is a visible curvature of the spine, it may suggest an asymmetry that needs further investigation.

Restriction of motion is another key criterion in diagnosing somatic dysfunction. The provider will assess the range of motion of the affected area and compare it to the expected range of motion. If there are limitations, stiffness, or pain during movement, it may indicate dysfunction. For instance, if a joint has a decreased range of motion or if a muscle feels tight and restricted, it could be a sign of somatic dysfunction.

Lastly, tenderness is assessed by applying gentle pressure to the area and observing the patient’s response. If there is pain or discomfort upon palpation, it may indicate an underlying dysfunction. This tenderness can be localized to a specific point or more diffuse in nature. For example, if a patient experiences pain when pressure is applied to a specific muscle or joint, it may suggest dysfunction in that area.

It is important to note that these criteria are not exclusive and may overlap in some cases. For example, tissue texture abnormalities can contribute to tenderness or restriction of motion. Additionally, the presence of one or more TART criteria does not necessarily mean there is somatic dysfunction. A comprehensive evaluation, including a thorough medical history and physical examination, is crucial to make an accurate diagnosis.

In my personal experience as a healthcare provider, I have encountered numerous cases where somatic dysfunction was diagnosed using the TART criteria. These criteria have proven to be valuable in identifying musculoskeletal dysfunctions and guiding appropriate treatment plans. However, it is important to consider the individual patient’s unique circumstances and symptoms when interpreting these criteria and making a diagnosis.

Somatic dysfunction is diagnosed by evaluating the presence of tissue texture abnormality, asymmetry, restriction of motion, and tenderness. These criteria are used to assess the musculoskeletal system and identify any abnormalities or dysfunctions. It is important to conduct a comprehensive evaluation and consider the individual patient’s symptoms and medical history to make an accurate diagnosis.