Touch & Perception

When you place your hands on your patient, do not judge or analyze what you feel. Make your hands soft, like a blanket, and be attentive to what you feel. Ask (mental) questions as your hands feel the tissues and the (patient’s) body will provide the answers.

~ Instructor ~ my first class in Palpation and Perception ~


There’s a magic of sorts in touch, I think. Some are a little more sensitive to it than others. I’m very much loving my palpation, bodywork and acu-moxa courses because they are encouraging me to explore this perceptiveness.

My depth of touch perception greatly intensified when I worked as an intern. In the Caribbean, we do all the phlebotomy and IV insertions. IVs in particular were an experience in itself. Every patient and their veins are different, of course. Sometimes they’re easy. Sometimes they’re not. And when they’re not, you learn to get good at finding what you can’t see. By touch, I learnt to find those hidden veins, essentially inserting those IV cannulae blindly (but successfully!). That’s one type of perception: differentiating the tissues.

I often hear of how doctors don’t touch patients enough. I even remember watching Dr. Abraham Verghese’s TED talk about it on a long haul flight once. Touch allows the doctor to truly assess the patient but, with equal importance, allows the patient to feel a sense of security, safety, comfort, trust. And touch is right at the top of the practice of Chinese Medicine: pulse diagnosis (touch perception), bodywork (touch perception), acu-moxa techniques (energetic perception).

None of these is possible without that very simple, yet magical thing that everyone can do.


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