Principles of palpation

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Superficial tissues should be palpated before deeper tissues

After the hands have been used for deep compression, the sensitivity of light touch sensors is diminished. Palpating superficial tissues also helps to prepare your client for deeper pressure, and avoids the stiffening of the tissues in reaction to your pressure.

Use just enough pressure to engage tissues

Moving from superficial to deeper tissues requires an increase of pressure applied, however palpation is an observation of the current state of the tissues. The pressure applied should be sufficient to engage the tissues, but not strong enough to effect changes in the tissues.

Keep moving, but not too quickly

When palpating, you should not stay in one area too long. Trust your first impressions. The receptors in your hands, forearms and other areas of the body adapt quickly, and what is felt or perceived is subsequently lost. You should generally move your hands fairly slowly when palpating. Slower palpation provides you with more information.

Multi-directional palpation

Palpation of fascia – Connective tissue adhesions may exist in any direction within the body. Multi-directional palpation provides you with the information you need to accurately assess connective tissue adhesions.

Palpation of muscles - Overlapping layers of muscular tissue are often orientated in different directions. Multi-directional palpation is therefore often needed to determine the direction of the muscle fibres that you are working on so that you can verify which muscle they exist within.

Bilateral palpation

When palpating you are comparing the tissues of your client to a benchmark (an expected normal). Bilateral palpation provides you with an easily accessible benchmark. Please note that because pathological changes can exist bilaterally in some people it is still necessary to compare your palpatory findings to your experience of palpating other people.