Massage Therapy

Palpation Tips for Students in Massage Therapy Training

March 03, 2020

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Performing a palpation assessment is a major component to giving a massage. In fact, it’s arguably the most important assessment technique a massage therapist uses.

Before you can give the most effective and comfortable massage possible, you must first make an assessment of the health of the muscles and tissues that need treatment, and how to get them back in the best possible condition.Mastering palpation can go a long way in helping you better understand how to apply the right amount of pressure to the areas that need it most.

Not only is it an essentialcomponent of massage therapy, but there’s also an art to doing it right.Learning the best palpation techniques will serve you well as a massage therapist, both now and in the future. Here are some things massage therapy students should know.

What Exactly is Palpation, and Why Is it So Important?

Palpation — a term originating from the Latin word “palpare,” meaning “to touch” — is where a health professional such as a massage therapist uses their hands and fingers on a client’s muscles to evaluate the state of those muscles and soft tissues.

There are several crucial pieces of information that can be gleaned from this type of assessment, including which muscles may be tender, inflamed, too tight or too loose, where trigger points might be located, or how much pressure is necessary to apply to those muscles.

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A massage therapist needs to know which of a patient’s muscles are inflamed or tender

Understanding Where Muscles End, Begin, and How They Work

Students in massage therapy college should know which locations they are palpating on the muscle, and this begins with knowing where the muscle ends (the insertion) and where it begins (the origin).

Palpation is best performed when the exact parameters and attachments of the muscle are known so that you can work across the entire muscle and know where to place your fingers. Upon better understanding where the muscle is, you can palpate it without missing any of the muscle’s belly.

Following this, be sure to understand what the muscle’s specific action is, and ask the client to make the target muscle contract. Also, try to add resistance to muscle movements so that palpation becomes easier, as the muscle will need to contract more forcefully.

What Massage Therapy College Students Should Keep in Mind for Palpation

Doing palpation properly can be an art in and of itself, and it’s important that students in massage therapy training understand the steps necessary for performing it. However, it’s also worth keeping several other points in mind.

For one thing, it’s important to consider not just the function of the target muscle, but also the actions of any adjacent muscles, as this may affect your assessment.

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A massage therapist should know the actions of target muscles

Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure your touches are fairly light to avoid the tissue you’re working on from being distorted, and to avoid increased tension in the client if you’re using too much pressure.

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