Soft Tissue Palpation

Digital palpation is used to localize and identify soft tissue structures for changes in tone, texture, and tissue mobility.  The horse’s response to being approached and its anticipation of palpation is often used as a behavioral indication of potential neck, back or pelvic pain or hypersensitivity.

Soft-tissue layers are evaluated from superficial to deep by increasing digital pressure and by focusing attention to specific tissues or structures

with discrete palpatory movements.  Shapes of structures, transitions between structures, and attachment sites are also palpated.  Soft-tissue texture and mobility can be compared between the skin, subcutaneous tissue, fascia, ligaments, and muscle; like layers of an onion. Assessing the patient’s response to palpation is especially important in localizing and determining the severity of pain or muscle hypertonicity.

The epaxial and pelvic musculature is further evaluated from superficial to deep, with detailed palpation to identify areas of abnormal muscle tonicity,

pain, or fasciculations. Muscle palpation is made with light, but firm pressure applied by a broad contact with the entire hand and not only the fingertips, which may unduly localize the applied pressure and precipitate a false positive pain response.

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Soft tissue palpation