Special Tests: What’s Causing My Shoulder Pain?

Special tests are tests done by clinicians, like physical therapists, to help determine or confirm a diagnosis. If a patient comes in with shoulder pain, special tests can help physical therapists differentiate between possible diagnoses with similar symptoms. 

There are many different types of special test used in the clinic. We broke down some commonly used tests by body part for you to try at home! Stay tuned for the next few weeks, where we discuss a few common ones for each of the body parts.

Shoulder Tests: 

Full Can:

  • Purpose: to test for an injury to the supraspinatus muscle (a muscle that makes up the rotator cuff)
  • Position: seated with the arm lifted out like a V to about 30-45 degrees (about 1/2 way to shoulder height) with the thumb pointed up
  • Technique: the tester tries to push down on the arm while the patient tries to resist the force by pushing up
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive if the patient feels pain and/or weakness when resisting

    Hawkins-Kennedy Test | osmosis.org

Hawkins/Kennedy:

  • Purpose: to test for shoulder impingement
  • Position: the starting position is seated with the arm in front of the body at shoulder height with the elbow bent to 90 degrees.
  • Technique: the tester stabilized the elbow and pushes the wrist down towards the floor. 
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive for supraspinatus impingement if the patient feels pain 

Empty Can:

  • Purpose: to test supraspinatus muscle (rotator cuff)
  • Position: seated with the arm lifted out like a V to about 30-45 degrees (about 1/2 way to shoulder height) with the thumb pointed up
  • Technique: the tester tries to push down on the arm while the patient tries to resist the force by pushing up
  • What does it tell us: positive test presents as pain and/or weakness

Neer’s test:

Neer’s Test | Wikimedia Commons

  • Purpose: to test for shoulder impingement
  • Position: the patient starts in a relaxed position either sitting or standing
  • Technique: the test moves that patient’s thumb down towards the ground and lifts their arm overhead. 
    What does it tell us: the test is positive for impingement if there is pain during the test

Speed’s test:

  • Purpose: to assess for bicep tendonitis or labrum problem
  • Position: seated with arm out in front to about shoulder height with the palm facing up
  • Technique: the tester tries to push down on the arm while the patient tries to resist the force by pushing up
  • What does it tell us: the test is positive for biceps tendonitis or labrum issue is there is pain

Contact Us!

If you’d like to learn more about the shoulder check out our anatomy blog post. Got Shoulder 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.