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BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2012 Dec 20;13:257. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-13-257.

Pain drawings in somatoform-functional pain.

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  • 1Division of Psychosomatic Medicine, Department of General Internal Medicine, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.



Pain drawings are a diagnostic adjunct to history taking, clinical examinations, and biomedical tests in evaluating pain. We hypothesized that somatoform-functional pain, is mirrored in distinctive graphic patterns of pain drawings. Our aim was to identify the most sensitive and specific graphic criteria as a tool to help identifying somatoform-functional pain.


We compared 62 patients with somatoform-functional pain with a control group of 49 patients with somatic-nociceptive pain type. All patients were asked to mark their pain on a pre-printed body diagram. An investigator, blinded with regard to the patients' diagnoses, analyzed the drawings according to a set of numeric or binary criteria.


We identified 13 drawing criteria pointing with significance to a somatoform-functional pain disorder (all p-values ≤ 0.001). The most specific and most sensitive criteria combination for detecting somatoform-functional pain included the total number of marks, the length of the longest mark, and the presence of symmetric patterns. The area under the ROC-curve was 96.3% for this criteria combination.


Pain drawings are an easy-to-administer supplementary technique which helps to identify somatoform-functional pain in comparison to somatic-nociceptive pain.

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