Rotator Cuff Test

Rotator Cuff Test

The Empty Can Test

The empty can test is used to assess the status of the supraspinatus, located on the upper part of your shoulder. This is a simple test to perform, and the motion involved mimics that of dumping out a soda can.

  • Sit or stand comfortably with a friend present.
  • Lift your painful arm out the side so it is parallel to the floor.
  • Bring your arm forward about 30 to 45 degrees.
  • Turn your hand over so your thumb is pointing toward the floor (as if you were trying to empty a can of soda).
  • Have your friend gently push your arm down.

If pain or weakness prevents you from maintaining your arm in the "empty can" position, you may have a supraspinatus rotator cuff injury. If so, check in with your doctor to confirm the diagnosis.

The Lift-Off Test

The lift-off test is a shoulder test to determine if you have a tear in the subscapularis. This muscle is located on the underside of your shoulder blade and is responsible for rotating your shoulder inward. To perform the lift-off test:

  • Stand up and place the back of your hand on the small of your back.
  • Face the palm of your hand away from your back.
  • Attempt to lift your hand away from your body.

If you are unable to lift your hand away from your low back, it is suspected that a subscapularis rotator cuff injury may be present.

Resistance Testing

One way of determining if a rotator cuff tear is possibly causing your shoulder pain is to perform manual strength testing of your rotator cuff muscles. To do this, follow a simple procedure:

  • Sit comfortably in a chair.
  • Bend your elbow 90 degrees and keep your elbow tucked into your side.
  • Have someone push your hand in toward your belly.
  • If you are unable to hold this position and feel pain, you may have a rotator cuff tear.