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.
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.