McMurray Test

The McMurray test is a quick first step your provider can use to determine if anything in your knee is damaged. You’ll probably still need other tests like an MRI to confirm that your meniscus is torn. Talk to your provider about which other tests and treatments you’ll need.


What is the McMurray test?

The McMurray test is a series of knee and leg movements healthcare providers use to diagnose a torn meniscus. It’s an in-office physical exam, which means your provider can perform it without any special equipment or a separate appointment.

Your provider will physically move your leg and knee joint to identify any pain or other symptoms you feel during the movements.

The McMurray test is usually part of a preliminary exam when you visit your provider with knee pain or after an injury. You’ll probably also need at least one of a few imaging tests to confirm a torn meniscus or any other injuries in your knee.

If the damage inside your joint needs surgically repaired, you might need a knee arthroscopy.

When would I need the McMurray test?

Your provider will perform the McMurray test if they think you have a torn meniscus. It’s one of the most common knee injuries — especially among athletes.

Your meniscus is a rubbery wedge of cartilage in your knee between your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). It’s like a shock absorber that cushions your bones and knee joints. Any sudden and intense jerking motion on your knee can tear your meniscus. Traumas like falls and car accidents can also tear your meniscus. The most common symptoms of a torn meniscus include:

  • Feeling or hearing a pop in your knee.
  • Instability in your knee or feeling like it might give out.
  • Pain.
  • Stiffness.
  • Swelling.
  • Being unable to fully bend or straighten your knee the way you usually can.

You might need a McMurray test when you visit your provider after injuring your knee. They’ll perform the test as part of your physical exam, especially if you’re having symptoms of a torn meniscus. The McMurray test can help your provider know if you damaged your knee ligaments or other connective tissue during your injury.

Who performs the McMurray test?

Your provider will perform the McMurray test in their office. They don’t need any special equipment or facilities to conduct the test.


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Test Details

How does the McMurray test work?

The McMurray test is a series of movements to check your symptoms and range of motion (how far you can move your knee joint). The test is simple and includes the following steps:

  • You’ll lay on your back.
  • Your provider will bend your knee to 90 degrees perpendicular to the rest of your body (about where it would be if you were in a seated position).
  • Your provider will rotate your bent knee in (toward your body) and out (away from your body).
  • Your provider will straighten your leg.

The McMurray test’s different positions apply mild stress to your meniscus. The movements are close to the kind of tension that’s applied to your knee while you use it in your daily routine.

While your provider is moving your knee and leg, they’ll ask you if you’re feeling any pain. They’ll also listen and feel for a popping in your knee. This lets them check for where (or how severely) your meniscus might be torn.

How do I prepare for a McMurray test?

You don’t need to do anything to prepare for a McMurray test. Just visit your provider as soon as possible if you’ve injured your knee or you notice any new symptoms.


What should I expect during a McMurray test?

Try to relax while your provider is moving your leg and knee during a McMurray test.

Because the McMurray test is a series of physical motions, make sure you tell your provider everything you’re feeling — especially if any of the movements hurt or make you uncomfortable.

Any pain, discomfort or other symptoms you feel during a McMurray test will help your provider know where your meniscus is torn, or what other kind of injury you might have.

What should I expect after a McMurray test?

A McMurray test is usually a first step in treating your knee. If your provider feels or hears anything in your knee during a McMurray test, they’ll recommend either further imaging tests or a treatment to relieve your symptoms.

After the McMurray test, you might need at least one imaging test. These tests will take pictures of the inside of your knee and confirm any damage inside your joint. The most common imaging tests include:

Your provider will tell you which imaging tests you’ll need and which injuries they’re looking for.

You might also need a knee arthroscopy to diagnose or repair damage inside your knee. Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that lets your surgeon see inside your knee joint with a tiny camera. Most knee arthroscopies are outpatient procedures, meaning you can go home the same day.


Does the McMurray test have any risks?

There are no risks to your knee from your provider performing a McMurray test.

You might feel a little pain or discomfort during the test, but even if your meniscus is torn, you shouldn’t feel intense pain while your provider moves your knee and leg during the test.

Some studies have shown that the McMurray test may not be very accurate at proving whether or not your meniscus is torn. However, it’s usually only the first step your provider will take to diagnose your injury. Imaging tests will give a more conclusive answer, which is why you’ll probably need at least one after your McMurray test.

Results and Follow-Up

What type of results will I get and what do they mean?

The McMurray test’s results aren’t as direct as some other tests you might have had before. Instead of giving an exact range or a specific number, a McMurray test gives your provider a better understanding of what might be injured in your knee.

They’re less like a math equation that gives an exact number and more like a true or false question. Your provider will classify your test as positive if they find anything that indicates that your meniscus is torn. A negative result means your provider didn’t feel or hear anything during the test.

A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t need other tests. Your meniscus might still be torn, or there might be other damage inside your knee.

When should I call my doctor?

Visit your provider if you’re experiencing symptoms like pain or swelling that get worse after a few days.

Go to the emergency room right away if you notice any of the following:

  • Extreme pain.
  • Swelling that’s getting worse.
  • Discoloration.
  • You can’t move your knee at all or can’t move it like you usually can.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A McMurray test is usually one of the first steps your provider will use to diagnose a torn meniscus in your knee. It’s a quick, simple set of movements they’ll lead you through when you visit their office after an injury.

Make sure you talk to your provider right away if your knee hurts or you can’t use it like you usually can.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 06/13/2022.

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