Diagnostic Techniques for Orthopedic Defects

Orthopedic problems, just like other medical issues, require a correct diagnosis before treatment. Below are some of the techniques that doctors use to diagnose orthopedic defects.

Imaging Techniques

Imaging techniques reveal tissues under the skin that the doctor cannot see with their naked eye. For example, imaging techniques can reveal bone or cartilage structures that would otherwise stay hidden. Discover some imaging techniques to diagnose orthopedic problems.


X-rays are high-energy electromagnetic radiation that penetrates the body tissues. X-rays penetrate body tissues in different amounts, depending on each tissue’s density. Thus, high-density tissues, such as bones, produce darker images than low-density tissues, such as muscles. The different shades allow the doctor to analyze different tissues of the body.


Conventional x-ray is good, but it cannot show minute details of the body. DEXA bone density scan uses narrow x-ray beams to reveal details that conventional x-ray cannot reveal. For example, the DEXA technology can show how dense your bones are, which your doctor can interpret to determine the quantity of minerals in your body.

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

Just like electromagnetic waves, sound waves also penetrate the body in different amounts depending on tissue density. Musculoskeletal ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the body’s hard tissues.


In a biopsy, the doctor removes a small tissue sample from the body for further examination. For example, your doctor may order a biopsy of your bone, muscle, or bone marrow tissues. The biopsy may reveal musculoskeletal disorders, such as muscular dystrophy or osteogenesis imperfect.

Blood Tests

Orthopedic disorders sometimes show up in the bloodstream. Such tests are, for example, useful for detecting substances in your bloodstream. For example, your doctor may order a blood test to determine the presence and nature of proteins in your bloodstream. Such a test is helpful since proteins are critical building blocks of the musculoskeletal system.

Gait Analysis

Your doctor may also use gait analysis to scrutinize your walking pattern. Your walking pattern could show abnormalities that might reveal musculoskeletal disorders. Below are some of the specific tests you might undergo during gait analysis:

  • Clinical examination: In this test, the doctor may ask you to walk or move your body in certain ways as they analyze your walking pattern.
  • 3D gait kinematics: In this case, your doctor may use a computer program to produce a 3D video of your gait.
  • Electromyography (EMG): For the EMG test, the doctor will attach sensors to your muscle to record and analyze your muscle pressure as you walk.
  • Energy expenditure: You often use more energy to walk if you have a movement disorder. Thus, a measure of your heart rate while you walk and rest may reveal the existence and extent of a gait disorder.

A gait analysis may involve multiple different tests in many cases.

Flexibility Test

As the name suggests, the flexibility test evaluates your body’s flexibility. As is the case with gait analysis, the flexibility test may involve multiple individual tests. For example, your doctor may order:

  • A sit-and-reach test where you sit and try to reach something on the ground
  • A back-scratch test that measures how far you can reach behind your back
  • A Schober test that measures how much your spine stretches when you bend forward

Your tests will depend on which joints or muscles or joints the doctor want to evaluate.

Different orthopedic ailments require different diagnoses and treatments. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about all these details — your doctor will take care of them. Arizona Institute of Motion has handled orthopedic treatments for years. Contact us for a consultation to diagnose and treat your musculoskeletal disorders.