Painful Arc Test

Orthopedic Exam / Special Tests for Physical Therapy: SHOULDER


Background: Supraspinatus Tendon, Subacromial Bursa Shoulder Impingement:

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain. It occurs when there is impingement of tendons or bursa in the shoulder from bones of the shoulder. Overhead activity of the shoulder, especially repeated activity, is a risk factor for shoulder impingement syndrome. Examples include: painting, lifting, swimming, tennis, and other overhead sports. Other risk factors include bone and joint abnormalities.

With impingement syndrome, pain is persistent and affects everyday activities. Motions such as reaching up behind the back or reaching up overhead to put on a coat or blouse, for example, may cause pain. Over time, impingement syndrome can lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons (tendinitis) and bursa (bursitis). If not treated appropriately, the rotator cuff tendons can start to thin and tear.



Special Test: PAINFUL ARC TEST/ Painful Arc Sign


  • To test for the impingement of the supraspinatus tendon and subacromial bursa beneath the acromion.

Video Demo Instructions, Procedure, Positive Test:

Special Test: PAINFUL ARC TEST: Video Demo (Procedure below)


Special Test: Painful Arc Test: PROCEDURE:

• Patient actively and slowly abducts their humerus through its entire range.

Special Test: Painful Arc Test: POSITIVE SIGN:

  • Pain in the acromion area starting at 70° of abduction, and eases after 130°