Interactive Guide to Physical Examination

The Knee - Examination Techniques


With the patient standing, evaluate knee alignment for genu varum or genu valgum. Also inspect the knees bilaterally for swelling, deformity or loss of contour. Frequently, effusion is subtle, and only noticed with careful comparison of the knee contour with the unaffected side.


Palpation of the knee joint begins at the distal femur and extends to the tibial plateau, including the lateral joint lines and popliteal fossa. Palpation begins with the patient sitting and the knee in flexion, but the patient needs to lie down for full evaluation of the knee. Include palpation of the bony, ligamentous, tendonous and muscular structures of the joint, and evaluate for tenderness, warmth or effusion.

Range of Motion:

The major movements of the knee joint include flexion and extension. When there is integrity in the ligamentous and tendonous structures of the knee, there is very little rotation or lateral movement in the knee. It is always important to compare findings with the opposite knee.

View video Click on the video icon to view a demonstration of the knee exam.