The physical examination looks for evidence of:
- mild to moderate firm swelling around the joint
- crepitus on movement (crunching feeling, like the sound of bone rubbing on bone)
- limited range of motion
- pain with movement of joint (especially towards the end of its range of motion)
- joint tenderness
- mild inflammation and warmth over the joint
Other physical evidence that points to osteoarthritis includes:
- weakness of muscles surrounding the affected joint
- tenderness of structures surrounding the joint
- joint instability (with advanced osteoarthritis)
- joint deformity, such as bony enlargement (with advanced osteoarthritis)
During the physical examination, your doctor will assess each of your joints for pain, tenderness, and range of motion. Determining the pattern of affected joints has significance and can often distinguish between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (for example, one knee or both knees affected).
Also, from your initial physical examination, you establish a baseline with your doctor. When you doctor repeats the physical examination on follow-up visits, changes for better or worse will be evident.
Osteoarthritis Clinical Features. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. Published by Arthritis Foundation. 13th Edition.