you generally have to apply some pressure in order to feel these pulses. this information is from textbook of physical diagnosis: history and examination
, third edition, by mark h. swartz, m.d., page 329:
". . .the popliteal pulse. . .while the patient is lying on the back, the examiner places the thumbs on the patella and the remaining fingers of both hands in the popliteal space behind. . .the examiner should hold the leg in a mild degree of flexion. the patient should not be asked to elevate the leg, because this will tighten the muscles and make feeling the pulse more difficult. both hands should squeeze in the popliteal fossa. firm pressure is usually required to feel the pulsation.
. . .the femoral pulse. . ..is evaluated with the patient lying on the back and the examiner at the patient's right side. the lateral corners of the public hair triangle are observed and palpated. the femoral artery should run obliquely through the corner of the pubic hair triangle below the inguinal ligament and midway between the pubic symphysis and the anterosuperioriliac spine. both femoral pulses may be compared simultaneously. . .if one of the femoral pulses is diminished or absent, auscultation for a bruit is necessary. the diaphragm of the stethoscope is placed over the femoral artery. the presence of a bruit may indicate obstructive aortoiliofemoral disease."
wanted to add this website which also gives information in the first sections on how to find and palpate the femoral and popliteal pulses. includes photographs.
- exam of the lower extremities
- femoral pulses: palpation
- pulse: arterial vessels of lower extremity