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Empty Can Test
The empty can test is used to assess supraspinatus tears, tendinopathy, and weakness. This test is also known as the Jobe’s test or the supraspinatus test. To perform this test, position the patient’s arm so that the shoulder is abducted to 90 degrees, the arm brought forward by 30 degrees, and the thumb is pointing downward.
Stabilize the shoulder and apply downward pressure on the wrist and ask the patient to resist. With the arm in this position, the supraspinatus is considered to be the primary muscle opposing the downward pressure. If the patient experiences pain without weakness, the test is considered positive and suggests supraspinatus tendinopathy. If the patient experiences pain with weakness, this is also considered a positive result and suggests partial or complete tendon tear.
It’s important to note that the empty can position of the shoulder is more likely to be pain provoking and therefore may result in muscle weakness because of pain and not show the true weakness of a torn supraspinatus tendon. An alternative to the empty can test is the Full can test, in which the test is performed with the thumb pointing up. The full can test position is less likely to result in muscle weakness due to pain provocation and therefore be more beneficial in testing the supraspinatus tendon.
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