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.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerStanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
Current as ofOctober 31, 2016
Current as of:
October 31, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Last modified on: 8 September 2017