Palpation - used to locate and identify soft tissue strains. Assist to detect activity or lack of it in muscle tissue and to elecit symptoms, including pain. The softer one touches the more one feels in regards to palpation.Therapist should not palpate too hard as the sensory reaction back to the therapist will miss the necessary input from the fingerpads back to the cerebellum/brain :-).
When a remedial massage therapist palpates it is not about placing significant pressure on a local area, it's about finding where the tightness or non thereof is in the muscle fibers. Useful terms when palpating are ; firm, tense, resistant, spongy, warm, cold, jelly, hot, wire, thick and the list goes on. Palpation is a start to a remedial massage treatment, though it's where assessment begins to help understand a client's physical ailments.
Textbook of Remedial Massage, Sandra Grace & Mark Deal, pg's 56 & 57.