What To Expect During a Knee Examination

Knee pain is extremely common. The knee is one of the main weight-bearing joints in the body, so it is susceptible to degenerative changes as well as the impact from trauma, either of which can result in chronic, acute, or subacute pain.

To develop an effective treatment plan for knee pain, it is first necessary to determine what is causing it. A physical examination by a doctor or chiropractor can help to pinpoint the cause. Imaging studies of the knee, such as X-rays or MRIs, can also help to make the determination by allowing the provider to visualize bones or soft tissues of the knee joint.

Often, the physical examination will come before any imaging studies to narrow down the probable causes. The following is an overview of the tests a provider is likely to perform during an examination of the asymptomatic knee.


The appearance of the knee can reveal a lot about what may be causing pain in the joint. A doctor or chiropractor will look to see if the knee appears swollen, the skin is discolored, or the muscles have lost bulk due to atrophy, which can occur when you do not put weight on the knee.

The provider will then feel your knee to check for the following:

  • Point tenderness, i.e., pain in particular areas
  • Skin warmth, a possible sign of infection
  • Effusion, i.e., a collection of fluid in the joint space, also known as “water on the knee”

Range of Motion Assessment

Pain or mechanical symptoms in your knee can limit your ability to move. Your doctor or chiropractor will often perform two range of motion assessments of your knee: active and passive.

An active range of motion assessment involves the provider observing how far you can move your knee yourself. He or she will ask you to move the knee as far as you can without pain and compare it to the normal range of motion.

In a passive range of motion assessment, the provider holds your leg and moves your leg manually. It is sometimes possible to achieve more range of motion passively than actively.

Specific Structures

The doctor or chiropractor will then perform tests of specific structures of the knee to assess pain and function. These structures may include ligaments, tendons, and menisci, all of which are soft tissues that play a part in stabilizing and mobilizing your knee.

People associate chiropractic treatment with back pain, but it may also be effective at assessing and treating pain at other joints, such as the knee. To schedule an appointment with one of our Rehabilitation chiropractors today.