Physical Exams for Osteoarthritis

Following a routine exam to assess your overall health (taking your blood pressure, listening to your heart), the doctor will focus on the joints that are bothering you — feeling and pressing on them for signs of swelling or tenderness and watching how they “work” when you walk or bend. The doctor will also assess other joints, which could be affected by arthritis even though you don’t know it yet.

During the joint examination, the doctor will ask you to move joints (“active motion”) and will also move them himself (“passive motion”). In true joint disease, movement is limited and causes pain with both active and passive motion. If the doctor can move a joint further than you can (flex your knee in a wider arc, for example), then you probably don’t have a problem with your joint but instead with the tendons or muscles surrounding it.

Different joints are examined in different ways:

The doctor checks for bony enlargements on the end joints of fingers or on the middle joints. These outgrowths, or nodes, are clear signs of osteoarthritis.

Limited range of motion is the key indicator. With the patient lying on his back with knees bent, the doctor places one hand on the knee and the other on the heel and then rotates the foot outward and inward. Restricted inward rotation is typically an early sign of hip osteoarthritis.

In addition to checking for abnormalities in joint movement, the doctor looks for areas of swelling around the knee joint.

The doctor palpates (feels) the contours of the spine to check for abnormal tenderness and assesses range of motion — whether the patient can touch his ear with his shoulder, for example.

Learn more:
How Is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
Lab Tests for Osteoarthritis
Can X-Rays Help Diagnose Osteoarthritis?

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.