Alex Simotas, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery
Board Certified Physiatrist
Specializing In Spine & Sports Medicine

Home > Diagnosis > Palpation


Palpation means touching. During the physical examination, your doctor may feel your joints to see if they are warm or swollen or show signs of inflammation. He or she may apply pressure to a muscle or joint to identify an area of tenderness. to locate the spatial coordinates of particular anatomical landmarks (e.g., to assess range and quality of motion), and assess tenderness through tissue deformation (e.g. provoking pain with joint pressure or stretching). In summary, palpation might be used either to determine painful areas and to qualify pain felt by patients, or to locate three-dimensional coordinates of anatomical landmarks to quantify some aspects of the palpated subject.

A physician may place a hand over a joint and ask you to move the joint, particularly if you complain of a “popping” or “snapping” sensation. This enables the physician to feel the tendons as they move over the joint. If you have a joint dislocation, the doctor may palpate the area before attempting to realign the bones.