Developing palpatory literacy

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Factors involved in developing palpatory literacy

As mentioned before, a therapist’s palpatory ability is related to two main factors. The ability to feel what is happening in the tissues, and the ability to make sense of what they are feeling.

A therapist’s palpatory ability increases with the following factors

  • Training
  • Experience
  • Knowledge of anatomy


Training in palpation techniques, and how to interpret these techniques will help to increase the therapist’s palpatory ability. However this is only the beginning of the development of palpatory ability.


Experience is the greatest contributor to palpatory literacy. As the therapist engages with the tissues of many client’s over time, their ability to feel what is happening in the body will develop. It’s worth noting that this development will be of most use if the therapist continues to refer to their palpation notes and make connections between what they are feeling, and what the notes say.

Knowledge of anatomy

Lastly, a therapist’s ability to interpret what they are feeling is strongly related to their knowledge of anatomical structures. Is it the muscles of the lower back that are tight or the inferior fibres of quadrates lumborum?

Ongoing development of palpatory ability

Luckily this means that a therapist is able to continue to develop their palpatory literacy by practice of massage therapy and continuing to engage with anatomy and palpation theory.