used as part of a physical examination
in which an object is felt (usually with the hands of a healthcare
practitioner) to determine its size, shape, firmness, or location. Palpation should not be confused with palpitation
, which is an awareness of the beating of the heart.
Palpation is used by various therapists such as practitioners of chiropractic
, osteopathic medicine
, physical therapists
, and massage therapists
, to assess the texture of a patient's tissue (such as swelling or muscle tone), assess range and quality of joint
motion, and assess tenderness through tissue deformation (e.g. provoking pain with pressure or stretching). The scientific literature has shown that motion palpation is often unreliable between practitioners. In contrast, manual tests that provoke or relieve pain have been shown to be more reliable.
Palpation is typically used for thoracic and abdominal examinations, and this but can also be used to diagnose edema and to measure the pulse. It is used by veterinarians to check animals for pregnancy, and by midwives to determine the position of a fetus.