Spinal motion palpation: a comparison of studies that assessed intersegmental end feel vs excursion.
Spinal motion palpation (MP) is a procedure used to detect intersegmental hypomobility/hypermobility. Different means of assessing intersegmental mobility are described, assessing either excursion of the segments (quantity of movement) or end feel (quality of motion when stressed against the paraphysiological space). The objective of this review was to classify and compare studies based on method of MP used, considering that some studies may have used both methods. Four databases were searched: MEDLINE-PubMed, Manual Alternative and Natural Therapy System, Index to Chiropractic Literature, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature databases for the years 1965 through January 2007. Retrieved citations were independently screened for inclusion by 2 of the authors consistent with the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Included studies were appraised for quality, and data were extracted and recorded in tables. The search strategy generated 415 citations, and 29 were harvested from reference lists. After removing articles that did not meet the inclusion criteria, 44 were considered relevant and appraised for quality. Fifteen studies focused on MP excursion, 24 focused on end feel, and 5 used both. Eight studies reported high levels of reproducibility (kappa = >or=0.4), although 4 were not of acceptable quality, and 2 were only marginally acceptable. When only high-quality studies were considered, 3 of 24 end-feel studies reported good reliability compared with 1 of 15 excursion studies. There was no statistical support for a difference between the 2 groupings. A difference in reported reliability was observed when the method of MP varied, although it was not statistically significant. There was no support in the literature for the advantage of one MP method over the other.