Physical therapy without a prescription Special Tests: What’s Causing My Knee or Ankle Pain?

We have been talking about special tests for a few weeks now! We have introduced many special tests, but there are even more we use as clinicians. We are ending this series off with specials test of the knee and ankle. Our legs have the very important job of holding up our body! They are commonly injured due to the constant workload, but vital to our function. Try these special tests if you have knee or ankle pain. Make sure to also check out our blogs on common injuries to learn more!

Knee Tests:

Lachman’s test:

  • Purpose: to assess for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) laxity
  • Position: lay on your back with your knee bent to around 30 degrees
  • Technique: stabilize femur

    Lachman’s Test | clinicaladvisor.com

    and move tibia forward on the femur

  • What does it tell us: make sure to perform this test on both sides to compare. If one side is moving more than the other when you pull on the femur (>5mm of displacement) or a mushy, soft end-feel the test is positive for ACL laxity.

Posterior Sag or Godfrey’s test:

  • Purpose: to asess for posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) laxity
  • Position: lay on your back with hips and knees both bent to 90 degrees
  • Technique: support the legs under the knee and compare the level of tibial tuberosities (the bone that sticks out below the knee)
  • What does it tell us: posterior displacement (lower leg moves down) on the involved leg is positive for PCL laxity

Varus test:

  • Purpose: to assess for lateral collateral ligament (LCL) laxity
  • Position: lay on your back. Start with knee in full extension and the repeat at 30 degrees flexion.
  • Technique: a force pushes on the inside of the knee forcing it out
  • What does it tell us: pain or excessive gapping of the joint when compared to the other side is a positive test

Valgus test:

  • Purpose: to assess medial collateral ligament laxity
  • Position: lay on your back. Start with knee in full extension and the repeat at 30 degrees flexion.
  • Technique: a force pushes on the outside of the knee, forcing it in
  • What does it tell us: pain or excessive gapping of the joint when compared to the other side is a positive test

McMurray’s test:

  • Purpose: to assess the meniscus
  • Position: laying on your back with tester’s hand on the side of the kneecap and the other grasping the ankle
  • Technique: from a position of maximal flexion, the knee is straightened with internal rotation of the lower leg and varus stress then returned to maximal flexion and then repeated with the leg turned out
  • What does it tell us: pain, snapping, clicking is a positive test for a meniscal injury

Ankle Test: 

Anterior drawer test:

  • Purpose: to assess the anterior fibular ligament (ATFL) (a ligament commonly injured with ankle sprains)

    Anterior Drawer Test | aafp.org

  • Position: non-weight bearing position with the toes pointed about 20 degrees while stabilizing the lower leg
  • Technique: grasp the heel and pull the foot upward
  • What does it tell us: pain and excessive movement due to instability is a positive test for anterior fibular ligament injury

Windlass test:

  • Purpose: to assess for plantar fasciitis
  • Position: non-weight bearing position with knee flexed at 90 degrees
  • Technique: ankle is stabilized in neutral and the big toe is dorsiflexed (brought towards the shin)
  • What does it tell us: pain along the inside of the foot is positive to plantar fasciitis

Thompson’s test:

  • Purpose: to assess for an Achilles tendon rupture
  • Position: laying face down with knees straight and foot hanging off the table
  • Technique: the tester squeezes the calf
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive if the foot does not move when the calf is squeezed

Contact Us!

Got leg pain? BeneFIT PT wants to help. So if you feel like something is wrong or you are more sore than you should be just give us a call to get that free medical screening scheduled.  For Chester call: (908)-879-5700, Bridgewater: (908)-203-5200.