Shoulder pain is a common complaint that affects millions of people worldwide. As a massage therapist, understanding and performing shoulder tests for pain is crucial for accurately assessing clients’ conditions and developing effective treatment plans. By conducting these tests, massage therapists can identify specific areas of dysfunction and tailor their therapeutic interventions to alleviate pain and improve overall shoulder function.


Overview of Shoulder Tests for Pain

Shoulder tests for pain involve a series of physical examinations designed to assess the integrity, range of motion, and stability of the shoulder joint. These tests can help identify various shoulder conditions, such as rotator cuff injuries, impingement syndrome, bursitis, tendinitis, frozen shoulder, and other musculoskeletal disorders. They also aid in differentiating between referred pain from the neck or other areas and pain originating from the shoulder joint itself.

Common Shoulder Tests

  • Neer Test: The Neer test evaluates shoulder impingement and involves passively raising the arm while stabilizing the scapula.
  • Hawkins-Kennedy Test: This test checks for impingement as well, by flexing the arm to 90 degrees and then internally rotating it.
  • Empty Can Test: The Empty Can test assesses the integrity of the supraspinatus muscle by having the client resist abduction and forward flexion against resistance.
  • Drop Arm Test: This test helps identify rotator cuff injuries by assessing the client’s ability to hold the arm in abduction.
  • Apley’s Scratch Test: The Apley’s Scratch test evaluates the range of motion and flexibility of the shoulder joint.

Importance for Massage Therapists

  • Accurate Assessment: Shoulder tests for pain provide massage therapists with a clear understanding of the client’s shoulder condition. This knowledge is crucial in developing targeted treatment plans, focusing on the specific areas that require attention.
  • Treatment Planning: By conducting these tests, massage therapists can identify any contraindications or limitations in the shoulder’s range of motion. This information helps in devising appropriate massage techniques and adjustments to avoid exacerbating existing issues.
  • Customized Treatment: Every client is unique, and shoulder tests for pain allow massage therapists to tailor treatments to individual needs. By identifying the root cause of shoulder pain, therapists can employ specific massage techniques and exercises to promote healing and pain relief effectively.
  • Enhanced Client Trust: When clients witness their massage therapist’s professional approach through systematic assessments, they gain confidence in the therapist’s abilities. This can lead to improved client-therapist communication and stronger therapeutic relationships.
  • Monitoring Progress: Regularly performing shoulder tests for pain enables massage therapists to monitor the client’s progress over time. By tracking improvements, therapists can modify treatment plans accordingly, ensuring continuous positive outcomes.


Shoulder tests for pain play a crucial role in the effective practice of massage therapy. By employing these assessments, massage therapists can accurately diagnose shoulder issues, develop customized treatment plans, and provide targeted interventions to alleviate pain and improve shoulder function. Ultimately, conducting shoulder tests enhances the therapist’s ability to deliver exceptional care and support