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What are Musculoskeletal Evaluations?

A musculoskeletal evaluation is a physical examination performed by your doctor to assess the health of your bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other associated tissues that are part of the musculoskeletal system.

Purpose of Musculoskeletal Evaluations

Musculoskeletal evaluations help your doctor to get a clearer understanding of the possible underlying cause for bone or joint pain or stiffness, muscle pain or weakness, or other musculoskeletal complaints.

What to expect from a Musculoskeletal Examination?

During the musculoskeletal evaluation, your doctor will observe (inspect), feel (palpate), and move (manipulate) the different functional parts of the musculoskeletal system in a systematic manner; for example, starting with an examination of the upper extremities from fingers and hands up towards the shoulders, then from the temporomandibular joint in the head down the neck and back, and ending with an examination of the lower extremities from the toes up towards the hips. Your posture and gait will be observed checking for alignment of the spine, pelvis, and extremities. The bone or joint surfaces may be felt for warmth, tenderness, abnormal shape, or fluid accumulation. Muscle tone, reflexes, and range of motion will also be tested.

Abnormalities Noted on Musculoskeletal Evaluations

The abnormalities that may be noted on musculoskeletal evaluation include:

  • Skin color, consistency, or temperature changes
  • Skin eruptions or ulcerations
  • Soft tissue swelling
  • Joint swelling, nodules, or effusion
  • Muscle wasting or spasm
  • Tenderness to palpation and pain on motion
  • Joint crepitation
  • Bone or joint deformity
  • Abnormal angulation
  • Subluxation
  • Limitation of motion
  • Joint instability
  • Abnormalities of trunk and spine (scoliosis or kyphosis)
  • Limitation of motion
  • Ambulation or gait abnormalities

What happens after a Musculoskeletal Evaluation?

The findings of your musculoskeletal evaluation may help your doctor come to a diagnosis or imaging studies such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and develop the most appropriate treatment plan for your condition.

Common Conditions diagnosed on Musculoskeletal Evaluations

Some of the common conditions diagnosed on musculoskeletal evaluations include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Disc herniation
  • Tendinopathy
  • Knee meniscus injury
  • Frozen shoulder

Are You a Candidate for a Musculoskeletal Evaluation?

You may be a candidate for a musculoskeletal evaluation if you have chronic pain, stiffness, weakness, or altered sensation arising in any bone, joint or muscle that is negatively impacting your quality of life.