1. Inspect the patient’s posture:
As part of musculoskeletal examination, it is important to observe and analyze a patient’s posture. This can include looking for signs of muscle tightness and spasm, as well as any improper alignment or curvature in the spine. It is also important to assess for any scoliosis or other abnormalities in the alignment of the spine.
2. Test range of motion (ROM) in all joints:
Range of motion is a key component to performing a musculoskeletal exam, and it should be tested in all major joints. This includes testing the patient’s ability to bend, twist and lift their arms, legs and other body parts. It also involves assessing any pain or discomfort they experience when performing these motions.
3. Assess joint laxity and instability:
Joint stability can affect posture and movement patterns, as well as being an indicator of potential injury risk. During a musculoskeletal examination, physicians will assess for signs of joint laxity or instability. This can include testing the patient’s ability to hold their joints in various positions, and assessing for any pain or discomfort when doing so.
4. Palpate muscles for tenderness, tightness and spasm:
Palpation is an important skill used during a musculoskeletal examination. By palpating the muscles around a joint, physicians can check for signs of muscle tightness, spasm or tenderness that may indicate an underlying problem. Muscles that are excessively tense or weak can contribute to poor posture and abnormal movement patterns.
5. Test muscle strength using manual techniques:
In order to accurately assess a patient’s muscle strength, medical professionals will use manual techniques to test the patient’s ability to produce force against resistance. During a musculoskeletal exam, physicians will assess for any imbalances in muscle strength between opposing muscle groups.
6. Assess the patient’s gait and balance:
Gait and balance are important components of overall musculoskeletal health, as they can be affected by issues with posture and alignment, as well as muscular strength and coordination. During a musculoskeletal examination, medical professionals will observe how the patient walks and stands, looking for any abnormalities or signs of instability that may suggest an underlying issue.
7. Evaluate posture and alignment:
Posture is an important indicator of musculoskeletal health, as it can be affected by muscular imbalances or any alignment issues. During a musculoskeletal examination, physicians will assess for signs of poor posture and look for any areas where the spine is not properly aligned.
8. Observe for muscle imbalances or asymmetry:
Muscle imbalances between opposing muscles groups can cause posture and alignment problems in the body. It is important to observe any signs of muscle asymmetry during a musculoskeletal exam, such as scoliosis, as these may indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
9. Test reflexes in appropriate joints:
Reflex testing is an important component of a musculoskeletal exam, as it can help to reveal underlying neurological issues. Physicians will assess the patient’s reflexes in appropriate joints, such as the knee or elbow, and look for any abnormal responses that may indicate an issue.
10. Check sensation in areas of skin innervated by specific nerves:
During a musculoskeletal exam, it is important to check for any signs of altered sensation in areas of skin that are innervated by specific nerves. This can help to reveal potential problems with nerve entrapment or compression, as well as other issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
11. Look for signs of problems with the articular cartilage, such as crepitus
The articular cartilage is a specialized type of tissue that lines the surfaces of our joints and helps to absorb shock during movement. During a musculoskeletal examination, physicians will look for any signs of damage to this tissue, such as crepitus or cracking sounds when moving the joint.
12. Assess for signs and symptoms of inflammatory joint disease:
Inflammatory joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause severe pain and swelling in the affected joints. During a musculoskeletal exam, physicians will assess for any signs of inflammation or pain, as well as look for any deformities in the joint that may indicate an underlying issue.
13. Assess the patient’s ability to perform functional activities:
Functional activities such as reaching, bending or squatting can help to reveal any underlying musculoskeletal issues. During a physical exam, physicians will assess the patient’s ability to perform these actions and look for any signs of pain or difficulty that may indicate an issue with agility, mobility or balance.
14. Monitor any changes in symptomatology or physical findings over time:
As musculoskeletal conditions can progress over time, it is important to monitor any changes in symptomatology or physical findings during follow-up examinations. By tracking these changes, physicians can help to ensure that the patient’s condition is managed effectively and that any underlying issues are addressed promptly.