The Monday Memo
September 18, 2017 PITT DPT STUDENTS
James Tersak, SPT, CSCS
Joint Motion End Feels
When completing an evaluation, a Physical Therapist is equipped with many assessment skills that are necessary to construct a comprehensive diagnosis of a patient. These skills include techniques that are used as parts of physical examinations, one of them being the ability to interpret joint motion end feels. A joint end feel is the sensation felt by the examiner when the end of the available range of motion is reached. There are a few types of end feels, and once identified, each can be used to guide your examination process. The end feel types include:
- Empty – end range is not reached due to excessive pain of the patient
- Soft – end range reached due to soft tissue
- Firm – end range reached due to resistance of the capsule or ligaments
- Hard – end ranged is reached due to bone on bone contact
For example, if a range of motion deficit was discovered when assessing passive hip flexion with the knee extended, a physical therapist would be able to interpret the end feel of the joint to hypothesize what could be a possible cause. If the end feel was hard (bone on bone) as opposed to soft (soft tissue), the therapist would hypothesize that the decrease in range of motion is due to some sort of impingement in the hip rather than hamstring tightness.
Interpreting end feels is a simple technique, but it can be very valuable when examining and treating a patient.