Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During the physical exam, your doctor will closely examine your affected joint, checking for tenderness, swelling or redness. He or she will also check the joint's range of motion. Your doctor may also recommend imaging and lab tests.

Imaging tests

Pictures of the affected joint can be obtained during imaging tests. Examples include:

  • X-rays. Cartilage doesn't show up on X-ray images, but the loss of cartilage is revealed by a narrowing of the space between the bones in your joint. An X-ray may also show bone spurs around a joint. Many people have X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis before they experience any symptoms.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissues, including cartilage. This can be helpful in determining what exactly is causing your pain.

Lab tests

Analyzing your blood or joint fluid can help pinpoint the diagnosis.

  • Blood tests. Blood tests may help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Joint fluid analysis. Your doctor may use a needle to draw fluid out of the affected joint. Examining and testing the fluid from your joint can determine if there's inflammation and if your pain is caused by gout or an infection.
Apr. 09, 2013