Palpation of the sacroiliac joint: An anatomical and sensory challenge

M. Christopher McGrath

The aim of this article is to highlight anatomical and sensory difficulties that may be associated with the use of diagnostic palpation, to promote wider critical consideration for the continuing role of diagnostic palpation as a tactile tradition in manual healthcare and to speculate that a technological answer may provide a more reliable and valid alternative.  The authors discuss how the anatomy of the sacroiliac region demonstrates why diagnostic palpation of the SIJ may be more difficult than may be commonly perceived. Furthermore, the somatosensory basis of diagnostic palpation is a confounding variable that may not be possible to circumvent. They conclude that diagnostic examination of the SIJ by palpation appears to be an accepted investigative approach of manual healthcare but is confounded by anatomical and sensory variables. Illustrative of systematic and possibly insurmountable anatomical and sensory confounding, the continued use of non-standardised, manual diagnostic palpation as a basis for manipulative intervention is questionable. There is a need to develop a sophisticated, technologically based alternative that offers a reliable multimodal input, standardization of findings and comparative indexing of such findings to a reference data-base.

International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 3, September 2006, Pages 103-107

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