Palpation/Which part of your body should you use to palpate?
The fingers, the back of the hand, or the whole body?
Which part of your body should you use to palpate?
Many people find the use of their fingertips the most natural and intuitive method of palpation. This is because our fingertips have the highest concentration of tactile sensory nerve endings than any other part of the body apart from the tongue. However there are other options.
The pads of the fingers provide the best sense of tactile sensations, which makes them most suited to palpation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues.
The dorsal surface of the hand has the highest concentration of thermo-receptors, and is found by many people to provide the best sense of temperature.
Upledger and Vredvoogd(1983) suggest another approach.
"Most of you have been taught to palpate or touch with your fingertips…we, however, would urge you to palpate with your whole hand, arm, stomach, or whatever part of your body comes into contact with the patient’s body. The idea is to ‘meld’ the palpating part of your body with the body you are examining. As this melding occurs, the palpating part of your body does what the patient’s body is doing. It becomes synchronized. Once melding and synchronization have occurred, use your own proprioceptors to determine what the palpating part of your own body is doing. Your proprioceptors are those sensory receptors located in the muscles, tendons and fascia that tell you where the parts of your body are without using your eyes."