A Shoulder examination is a portion of a physical examination used to identify potential pathology involving the shoulder. It should be conducted with both shoulders exposed to assess for asymmetry and muscle wasting.
Elements of the shoulder exam
- Palpation of sternoclavicular joint, clavicle, acromioclavicular joint, subacromial bursa, biceps, bicipital groove,
- Evaluation of passive and active range of motion: Neck range of motion should be assessed that may reveal a neck source of shoulder pain. The Apley scratch test specifically tests range of motion and in a normal exam, an individual should be able to reach C7 on external rotation, and T7 on internal rotation.
- Evaluation of distal pulses
- Strength testing: wrist extension tests the radial nerve, finger abduction tests the ulnar nerve, and thumb apposition tests the median nerve.
- Sensation testing
- Reflex testing: Triceps reflex tests C6-C8, biceps reflex tests C5 and C6, and brachioradialis reflex tests C5-C7.
- Provocative maneuvers
Provocative maneuvers specific to the shoulder examination
Tests for rotator cuff pathology
- Neer impingement sign: a positive test indicates shoulder impingement
- Hawkin's test: a positive test indicates shoulder impingement
- Empty beer can test: a positive test indicates rotator cuff tear, specifically, supraspinatus muscle tear
- Drop arm test: a positive test indicates a supraspinatus tear
Tests for shoulder instability
- Apprehension test or Jobe's test: positive test indicates anterior glenohumeral instability
- Relocation test
- Cross-arm test: positive test indicates acromioclavicular joint degeneration/arthritis
- Adson's sign tests for thoracic outlet syndrome
- Lhermitte's sign may indicate cervical radiculopathy or spinal cord disease
- Spurling's test tests for cervical spine disease
A meta-analysis in 2008 concluded that the diagnostic accuracy of individual tests in the shoulder examination was limited, specifically that the Hawkins-Kennedy test and the Speed test have no discriminatory ability to diagnose specific shoulder pathology, and that results of studies evaluating other tests were too statistically heterogeneous to make meaningful conclusions about their diagnostic accuracy.
Examination of the shoulder can be complex because the shoulder can present with more than one pathology at a time.
- THOMAS W. WOODWARD, M.D., and THOMAS M. BEST, M.D., PH.D. (2000 May 15). "The Painful Shoulder: Part I. Clinical Evaluation". Am Fam Physician. 61 (10): 3079–3088. PMID 10839557.
- "Musculoskeletal Shoulder Examination: Shoulder Exam Maneuvers". University of Michigan. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Hegedus EJ, Goode A, Campbell S, Morin A, Tamaddoni M, Moorman CT 3rd, Cook C. (2008 Feb). "Physical examination tests of the shoulder: a systematic review with meta-analysis of individual tests.". Br J Sports Med. 42 (2): 80–92; discussion 92. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.038406. PMID 17720798.
- Edward G. McFarland; Tae Kyun Kim (30 June 2006). Examination of the shoulder: the complete guide. Thieme. ISBN 978-3-13-141091-7. Retrieved 25 June 2011.