Your doctor will ask about your history of knee problems and will press on areas of your knee and move your leg into a variety of positions to help rule out other conditions that have similar signs and symptoms.

To help determine the cause of your knee pain, your doctor might recommend imaging tests such as:

  • X-rays. A small amount of radiation passes through your body in the process of creating X-ray images. This technique visualizes bone well, but it is less effective at viewing soft tissues.
  • CT scans. These combine X-ray images from various angles to create cross-sectional images of internal structures. CT scans can visualize both bone and soft tissues, but the procedure delivers a much higher dose of radiation than do plain X-rays.
  • MRI. Using radio waves and a strong magnetic field, MRIs produce detailed images of bones and soft tissues, such as the knee ligaments and cartilage. But MRIs are much more expensive than X-rays or CT scans.