What is Palpation?


Palpation is a diagnostic technique employed by chiropractors during which they use their hands and the sense of touch to detect subluxations (displacement of spinal bones) and other abnormalities in the spinal anatomy.

Palpation is one diagnostic technique that is usually performed as part of a chiropractic examination, in conjunction with:

  • Visual examination for swelling and abnormal spine curvature
  • Gait tests for improper head, neck, and pelvic coordination
  • A routine review of your personal medical history to determine the frequency, severity, and location of your symptoms.

Palpation and Other Diagnostic Techniques

Palpation can take the form of “static palpation” and “motion palpation.” Static palpation means the patient remains still and the chiropractor gently touches the spine and surrounding tissues so that he or she can detect areas of pain, inflammation, misaligned vertebrae, and protruding intervertebral discs. Motion palpation is when the chiropractor checks the patient’s ability to move, bend, and flex. Motion palpitation allows the chiropractor to test for stiffness, joint lockage, flexibility, muscle strength, reflexes, and neurological function.

Other Components of Chiropractic Care

While palpation is a diagnostic technique, there are a variety of treatment techniques that a chiropractor may employ based on the patient’s needs, including:

  • Manipulation – also called adjustment, this is when the chiropractor applies manual pressure to a joint, taking it beyond its “passive” range of motion, or beyond the point at which the patient would normally move the joint. May be accompanied by “cavitation,” which is the release of gaseous tension in the joint fluid.
  • Mobilization – slower, gentler movements that keep the joint within its passive range of motion. With mobilization, the patient retains control of his or her movements, while manipulation requires the patient to surrender control.
  • Decompression – this involves releasing neural pressure by realigning shifted vertebrae, intervertebral discs, or facet joints. Usually decompression is done by stretching the spine so that the intervertebral spaces and joint spaces can be widened. Inversion, intradiscal negative pressure, and traction are all decompression techniques.

Treatment Alternatives

If you suffer from degenerative spine conditions such as spinal stenosis, ruptured disc, or a disc protrusion but have found that conservative, nonsurgical treatments like chiropractic work do not offer sufficient pain relief, it may be time to contact Laser Spine Institute. We specialize in minimally invasive, procedures that may be able to help you rediscover your life without back or neck pain.