Clinical skills – i.e. competent history taking and examination – are the key to making an accurate diagnosis and assessment of a patient complaining of joint problems.
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The aims of the history will be to differentiate between inflammatory and degenerative/mechanical problems, to identify patterns that may help with diagnosis, and to assess the impact of the problem on the patient.
GALS (Gait, Arms, Legs, Spine) is a brief screening examination which takes 1–2 minutes and has been shown to be highly sensitive in detecting significant abnormalities of the musculoskeletal system.
Regional examination of the musculoskeletal system (REMS) refers to a detailed examination that should be carried out once an abnormailty has been detected either through the history or through the screening examination GALS.
Imaging of bones and joints, blood tests and synovial fluid analysis are the three main types of investigations which can be useful in assessing a patient's joint problems.
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