Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Not what they seem

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

After years of practice, I can easily find your infraspinatus muscle. In the dark, in about three seconds. Through a thick towel. However, massage and manual therapists often fool themselves into thinking they are feeling things under their hands that are not actually there, or things that might be there but cannot possibly be detected with any reliability. This is palpatory pareidolia: illusions in the sense of touch.

Palpatory Pareidolia & Diagnosis by Touch: Tactile illusions, wishful thinking, and the belief in advanced diagnostic palpation skills in massage and other touchy health care

I’ve written about this before, but this is a topic “reboot,” with content combined from a few early drafts and whipped into shape for a permanent article: