A few days ago I was treating a new client and she asked me if I receive the same information through my elbows as I do with my hands. Although the thought had crossed my mind before, I had not put energy into really thinking about it. The answer is Yes and No. And I think this applies to all of us, not just manual therapists.
From just a pure physical standpoint, the hands have so many more nerve endings and are able to transfer so much more information back and forth with the Central Nervous System. And also we habitually use our hands to feel things more than any other part of our body. We build with our hands, we type, tie shoes, put on our clothes, etc. We do so many things with our hands that we are usually not aware and don't think about all the information that we are receiving from them as it's happening.
I was taught early on that if I wanted to magnify what I'm feeling while I'm touching and feeling with my hands, to bring awareness up into my wrists. In other words, focusing more on the wrists than the hands themselves. And somehow that opens some sort of pathway for more information to flow in and be received. So even though the hand is the body part that's touching, it's the mind and its imagination that creates a much larger receptacle to receive information. It's this ability to use the mind that can turn any part of the body into a larger receptacle for information. So it is possible for the elbow or any other body part to receive lots of information.
Play around with this idea and try out the following exercise/game.
Find a partner. Place your hands on his/her feet. Notice your partner's breath with your eyes. Now feel the breath through the feet. Feel the movement of the breath as it translates down into the feet. After 20-30 seconds of this, move your awareness into your wrists and feel the breath again. Do you notice anything new? Anything different? Then switch with your partner and receive the touch. Notice if you can tell a difference between them feeling with their hands or through the wrists.