Arthritis and the Impairment Physical Exam

13 March 2012 / Impairment Physical Exam / Comments Off on Arthritis and the Impairment Physical Exam


Arthritis is a term used to describe many forms of inflammation and degeneration of a joint and its components. The joint, made of bone and covered with cartilage, is constructed to allow smooth movement and minimal friction with motion.

Arthritis has been found to have a genetic component, particularly in the spine.

Individuals suffering from arthritis may have enlargement and swelling of the joint.

The most common form, osteoarthritis, can result from trauma or fracture of the joint or simply the aging process. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infections from bacteria. Rheumatoid arthritis is linked to autoimmune conditions. Crystal disease such as gout or pseudogout may cause and/or aggravate arthritis.

Treatment for arthritis ranges from conservative methods such as ice, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, or manufactured joint fluid supplements such as Synvisc. More aggressive treatments can include surgical intervention or total joint replacement.

X-ray’s and CT scans are used in diagnoses. One should be aware that medical imaging does not always accurately indicate the severity of the symptoms.



*Some causes of arthritis are: normal aging process, underlying autoimmune conditions, metabolic conditions, or trauma.

*Treatment for arthritis may include anti-inflammatory medications, injections, and possible surgical intervention for advanced conditions.

*Medical imaging such as an X-ray and CT scan may aid in diagnosis.


Rating Comment:

The AMA Guides Fifth Edition provides rating for arthritis, particularly in the lower extremities, based on X-ray cartilage intervals. Rating for arthritis in the lower extremities should be obtained based on bilateral X-rays and weight bearing. When assessing arthritis of the kneecap and joint for impairment rating, it is best to obtain a Merchant's view with the knee flexed 45°.

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