Home > Health & Wellness > Health Library > Physical Exam and History for Osteoarthritis
A doctor often discovers important
information about the possible causes of symptoms through a discussion about
your medical history. During this discussion, the doctor may ask questions such
as the following:
During the physical exam, the doctor will look at, feel,
and move each joint, evaluating it:
The doctor will also look for any signs of unequal leg
lengths, muscle weakness, or muscle wasting.
During a physical
exam, the doctor also will do an evaluation of the lungs, heart, liver, and
A medical history and physical exam
are a normal and important part of the evaluation of joint pain and
The key to diagnosing osteoarthritis is
determining the pattern of
joints that are affected. For example, if you have symptoms in the set of
knuckle joints between the wrists and finger joints (metacarpal-phalangeal
joints), the balls of the feet (metatarsal-phalangeal joints), wrists, ankles,
or elbows, you probably have a different, inflammatory form of arthritis such
as rheumatoid arthritis.
A normal joint is not painful, tender, or swollen, has a
full range of motion, and appears structurally normal.
In an abnormal joint, an exam may detect pain or
swelling along with a bony hardness. Other abnormal findings that suggest
osteoarthritis and other types of arthritis may be difficult based on
individual joint symptoms. But a pattern of symptoms may point to the type of
Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.
Current as of:
April 9, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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