The first step in diagnosing arthritis is to listen to the patient’s story and do a thorough physical exam. The description of a patient’s symptoms, the specific location of the pain, the circumstances in which it arises, and what factors alleviate or exacerbate the condition, will help guide the physician toward the diagnosis. Reproducing the patient’s symptoms by taking the joint through a range of motion or employing certain physical exam maneuvers will help to confirm the patient history.
Once a preliminary diagnosis is suspected, it is then confirmed with x-rays, which will clearly demonstrate loss of cartilage or bone spurs consistent with arthritic damage to the joint. In rare cases, advanced imaging such as an MRI may be required when other diagnoses are suspected, such as labral tears or avascular necrosis.