McMurray Test

If you have a patient complaining about knee pains, swelling, or locking, administer the McMurray Test to gauge their knees and see if they might be suffering from a meniscal injury.

By Matt Olivares on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is the McMurray Test?

Before we discuss what the is, let’s discuss what meniscus tears are for a bit. A meniscus is a type of cartilage found between the shinbone and the thighbone, and it serves as the knee’s shock absorber. But this absorber has its limits, though! If you aren’t careful, you can accidentally tear your meniscus.

Meniscus tears are actually the most common type of knee injury. More often than not, athletes or people who normally engage in physically taxing activities get checked for meniscus tears, though they aren’t exclusive to them. Sometimes, a meniscus tear happens because the meniscus degenerates over time as a person gets older.

If you need to know if you have a meniscus tear or not, here are the symptoms to look out for:

  • There is a pain in the knee. The pain can be inside (medial), outside (lateral) or in the back of the knee
  • The knee is swelling
  • The knee joint locks from time to time
  • The person is limping
  • There is an inability to fully extend the knee
  • There is an inability to bend the knee

Of course, just because you have these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have a meniscus tear. To find out, it’s best to see a physical therapist or adjacent healthcare professional for a test.

One of the tests that they will administer is the McMurray Test. This test is a type of physical therapy assessment where the person administering it actually tends to the patient instead of simply observing them. The therapist will manipulate a patient’s legs while applying pressure to the knee joint to gauge the patient for any meniscus tears.

Printable McMurray Test

Download McMurray Test to determine if your patient has a miniscus tear.

How to administer the McMurray Test

The McMurray Test is one of the simplest ways to check patients for meniscus tears. Earlier, we mentioned that the physical therapist conducting this test will be tending to the patient by manipulating the patient’s legs in such a way that they can apply pressure on the knee joints. This is how it is exactly done:

  • The physical therapist must let the patient lie down on a flat surface in a supine position. The patient must also flex the knee that will be examined.
  • The physical therapist must position themselves on the side that will be examined.
  • The physical therapist must use their proximal hand to hold the patient’s knee as well as to palpate the joint line. Their thumb must be on one side while their fingers should be on the other.
  • The physical therapist will hold the sole of the patient’s foot with their distal hand. They will use this to support the limb and move it as instructed.
  • “Move it as instructed”, you ask? Here’s what needs to be done once you have followed the directives that were just mentioned:
  • From a position of maximal flexion, extend the knee with internal rotation (IR) of the tibia and a VARUS stress. This is for checking the patient for lateral meniscus tears.
  • Return to maximal flexion and extend the knee with external rotation (ER) of the tibia and a VALGUS stress. This is for checking the patient for medial meniscus tears.

How to interpret the results of the McMurray Test

Most physical therapy-related assessments have scores, however, for the McMurray Test, there is none. Given that, how exactly do we interpret the findings of this test?

The results of this test will be based on what the physical therapist notices while following the instructions above.

To determine if the patient is positive for having a meniscus tear, whether lateral or medial, the physical therapist must take note of the following:

  • Is there pain? Does the patient react audibly or through their facial expressions in a way that tells you they are in pain whenever you manipulate their leg and apply pressure on their knee?
  • Did you hear any snapping or clicking while applying pressure on their knee?
  • While flexing their knees, did it lock at any instance?

If you noticed that these symptoms are present, then these are indicators of a torn (or at least compromised) lateral and/or medial meniscus.

We did mention earlier that this is one of the tests a physical therapist can conduct to check for meniscus tears. It’s highly recommended that you conduct other tests, such as the Thessaly Test, Apley’s Test, and the Joint Line Tenderness (JLT) Test in order to to be more comprehensive and sure about the patient being positive for meniscus tears. If all tests are consistent, then you should recommend them for an X-ray or MRI to confirm the tear. Depending on the severity of the tear, they might have to undergo surgery.

McMurray Test Example

Now that you know what the McMurray Test is all about and how to conduct it, it’s time for you to see what a McMurray Test template looks like. Do note that the McMurray Test itself does not have a sheet since it has to be manually done, but for your benefit, we created an instruction sheet with an Additional Comments box where you can write down your findings based on the test. Here’s what it looks like:

Download this McMurray Test Example (Sample) here:

McMurray Test Example

If you like what you see here and you think that this sheet is something that you would like to add to your roster of physical therapy assessments, then feel free to download it from our platform! You can choose to print it or use the PDF digitally (it has an editable field for your comments).

When is it best to conduct the McMurray Test?

The best time to conduct the McMurray Test will always be when a patient sets up an appointment with you to have their knees checked for any possible meniscus tears they might have. It is usually included as part of a comprehensive examination.

As mentioned earlier, the McMurray Test may not be enough to confirm any suspicions, so it’s best to administer tests like the Joint Line Tenderness (JLT) and have them checked using imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs. As much as possible, the McMurray Test should not be the sole assessment used to determine if a patient has meniscus tears.

The test doesn’t have to be a one-time, big-time test to be administered either. You can definitely re-administer this test as a way to monitor your patient. Let’s say that the X-ray results didn’t show any signs of meniscus tears, but the patient is still in pain. You can schedule them for routine examinations to check on the progress of this pain. Who knows, a meniscus tear might appear down the line! Of course, hopefully, that doesn’t happen.

It can also be used to determine if whatever treatment was applied is working or not. But if you will use this on someone who had to get surgery for their meniscus tears, it’s better to hold off administering this for a while and only do so after they have healed up a bit.

What are the benefits of the McMurray Test?

It can help identify meniscus tears in real-time.

Since the McMurray Test is a manual type of physical therapy assessment that requires the professional to manipulate a patient’s legs and apply pressure to their knees, the professional can identify potential meniscus tears in real-time. The results are immediate and based on what the professionals notice as they apply pressure to the knees.

It makes comprehensive examinations more effective.

The McMurray Test is one of several types of physical therapy assessments that evaluate patients for Meniscus Tears. Normally, you want to conduct as enough tests as possible, and this is definitely one that you can include in your roster of tests. It’s inexpensive to conduct as well because you don’t need any special equipment. All you need is a flat surface and your hands.

It can monitor the progression of injury or recovery in patients.

You can re-administer this test as part of a routine examination. If a patient is showing signs of having a possible meniscus tear but test results show that they don’t, you can re-administer this every now and then to check if a patient’s knee pain is gradually getting worse. Who knows, at first, they were simply at risk of getting tears, but after a series of examinations, the pain eventually got worse and resulted in a lateral or medial meniscus tear.

If a patient was already treated, you can use this to see if they are recovering well. Of course, if they are already recovering, it’s best to be gentle when conducting the McMurray Test on them.

Why use Carepatron to help you with physical therapy work?

One of the points that we reiterated about the McMurray Test is that you might want to use it as part of a more comprehensive examination just to be sure about diagnosing your patient as positive for meniscus tears. It’s prudent for a healthcare professional to cover as much ground as possible before making decisions, especially if the decision is to endorse a patient for surgery in the context of meniscus tears.

Here at Carepatron, we have a treasure trove of physical therapy assessments that you can use as part of your comprehensive examination of your patients. We have more than enough resources that should help you cover enough ground, especially when it comes to injuries like meniscus tears.

We’re all about helping professionals such as yourself in terms of streamlining your work and providing support through resources, so download as much as you want and need!

Carepatron also has a secure storage system where you can store your test results in a HIPAA-compliant manner. If you are using the McMurray Test sheet template that we made, you can store copies of it on our platform! You can even secure this with access permissions and choose who gets to access them besides you!

This is a pretty nifty feature, especially if you are working with a wider team, specifically with others who specialize in using other tools. Let’s say that you have people who are experts in using other meniscus tears-related assessments on your team. You can give them access to digital versions of the McMurray Test sheet we made so they can see your comments and your reasonings behind whatever decisions you made. Then they can conduct their tests while keeping in mind your comments. Who knows. You guys might have similar findings despite using different tests.

Convenience. Accessibility. Security. You get all three with Carepatron.

Physical Therapy Software
Is the McMurray Test painful?
Is the McMurray Test painful?

Commonly asked questions

Is the McMurray Test painful?

This will depend on the patient. Pain is a symptom of meniscus tears after all, and since you will be applying pressure to their knees, they will definitely feel pain. Just be as gentle as possible. Do note that even if applying pressure brings them discomfort, the pain is an indicator of what they might have. If there is pain but only slight, maybe the meniscus is just strained and needs rest. If the pain is intense, they likely have a meniscus tear.

Given that the test can be painful, are there any risks to take note of?

The McMurray Test is relatively safe. But given that pain is a factor here, it would be best for the healthcare professional to be gentle when manipulating the limbs and applying pressure to the knee. You don’t want to make an existing knee injury worse. It’s best to be careful when conducting this test, especially if you are conducting it as a way to monitor someone who just got surgery for a meniscus tear.

How long does it take to accomplish this test?

That will depend on the healthcare professional and the patient. This may take anywhere between one minute to ten. The instructions are easy to follow, so it shouldn’t take too long to accomplish.

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