End-Feel

Original Editor - Anas Mohamed Top Contributors - Anas Mohamed and Shaimaa Eldib

End-Feel

The end feel is a type of sensation or feeling which the examiner experienced when the joint is at the end of its available passive range of motion.
The end of each motion at each joint is limited from further movement by particular anatomical structures.The type of structure that limits a joint has a characteristic feel,which may be detected by the therapist performing the passive ROM.This feeling,which is experienced by the therapist as resistance,or a barrier to further motion,is called the end-feel[1]

Significance

An appropriate assessment of end feel can support the examiner

  • To assess the type of pathology present[2]
  • To identify the limiting structures and choose a focused and effective treatment[2]
  • Determine a prognosis for the condition[2]
  • And learn the severity or stage of the problem[2]
  • By determining if the pain or restriction is the main problem, the examiner can determine if a more gentle treatment should be given (pain predominating) or a more vigorous treatment (restriction predominantly).[2]

Classification

The most widely recognized classification developed by Cyriax, Kaltenborn, and Paris[2][1] have described a variety of normal (physiological) and the abnormal (pathological) end feels.

Normal end feels (physiological)

The normal end feels are generally described as

  • Hard: Type of "Bone-to-Bone" stiff sensation that is painless. An example elbow extension
  • Soft: There is a yielding compression (mushy feel) that stops further movement or gradual increase in resistance as muscle, skin and subcutaneous tissues are compressed between the body parts. Examples are elbow and knee flexion, which movement stopped by compression of the soft tissues, primarily the muscles[2]
  • Firm: There is a hard or firm (springy) type of movement with a slight give.Toward the end of ROM,there is a feeling of springy or elastic resistance. Tissue stretch is the most common type of normal end feel; it is found when the capsule and ligaments are the primary restraints to movement. Examples are lateral rotation of the shoulder,and knee and metacarpophalangeal joint extension.[2]
Normal end feel[1]
End-Feel Structure Examples
Soft Soft tissue approximation Knee flexion (contact between soft tissue of posterior leg and posterior thigh)
Firm Muscular stretch Hip flexion with the knee straight (passive elastic tension of hamstring muscles
Capsular stretch Extension of metacarpophalangeal joints of fingers (tension in the anterior

capsule)

Ligamentous stretch Forearm supination (tension in the palmar radioulnar ligament of the inferior

radioulnar joint, interosseous membrane, oblique cord)

Hard Bone contacting bone Elbow extension (contact between the olecranon process of the ulna and the

olecranon fossa of the humerus

Normal soft end-feel
Normal hard end-feel
Normal firm end -feel

Abnormal end feels (pathological)

The Abnormal end feels are generally described as

  • Soft: Occurs sooner or later in the ROM than is usual or in a joint that Soft tissue edema normally has a firm or hard end. Feels boggy, with a fluid shift.[1]
  • Firm: Occurs sooner or later in the ROM than is usual, or in a joint that normally has a soft or hard end.[1]
  • Hard: Occurs sooner or later in the ROM than is usual, or in a joint that normally has a soft or firm end. A grating or bony block is felt.[1]
  • Empty: No real end because pain prevents reaching the end of ROM.No resistance is felt except for the patient’s protective muscle splinting or muscle spasm.[1]
Examples[1]
End feel Examples
Soft Soft tissue edema

Synovitis

Firm Increased muscular tonus

Capsular, muscular, ligamentous shortening

Hard Chondromalacia

Osteoarthritis

Myositis ossificans

Fracture

Loose bodies in joint

Empty Acute joint inflammation

Bursitis

Abscess

Fracture

Psychogenic disorder

Examination

Building up the capacity to decide the kind  of end feel takes practice and sensitivity.

  • When assessing passive movement, the examiner should apply overpressure at the end of the ROM to determine the quality of end feel ( the sensation the examiner "feels" in the joint as it reaches the end of the ROM ) of each passive movement.[2]
  • Passive ROM, particularly towards the end of the motion, must be performed slowly and carefully when testing end feel.[1]
  • Secure stabilization of the bone proximal to the joint being tested is critical in preventing multiple joints and structure from moving and interfering with the determination of the end feel[1]
  • To be sure that severe symptoms are not provoked. If the patient is able to hold a position at the end of the physiological ROM (end range of active movement) without provoking symptoms or if the symptoms ease quickly after returning to the resting position, then the end feel can be tested. Pain with pathological end feel is common ( if the patient has severe pain at the end range, end feel should only be tested with extreme care).[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]

References

  1. Susan B.O'Sullivan, Thomas J. Schmitz, George D. Fulk. Physical Rehabilitation. 6th edition. F. A. Davis Company. 2014.
  2. David J. Magee. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th edition. Elsevier. 2014.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Susan B.O'Sullivan, Thomas J. Schmitz, George D. Fulk. Physical Rehabilitation. 6th edition. F. A. Davis Company. 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 David J. Magee. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th edition. Elsevier. 2014.
  3. Clinical Physio.Shoulder Passive Range of Movement Testing | Clinical Physio Premium. Available from: https://youtu.be/p8E_ksL96HI
  4. Dominican College.Assessment of knee flexion end feel. Available from: https://youtu.be/1vdUakzxujI
  5. Dominican College. Assessing ankle DF and elbow ext end feel. Available from: https://youtu.be/LlgwDmqBqlQ