Full Can Test

Dive into the details of the Full Can Test, a vital tool in orthopedic evaluations for detecting potential shoulder injuries. Download our free PDF for a comprehensive guide!

By Audrey Liz Perez on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is a Full Can Test?

The Full Can Test is a critical tool in the orthopedic evaluation toolbox. As a simple, non-invasive clinical examination technique, it is pivotal in evaluating the health and function of the supraspinatus muscle and tendon. These two components are part of the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that provide stability and mobility to the shoulder joint.

The and its counterpart, the Empty Can Test, often perform together as the full can empty can test. Both tests follow a similar protocol, but the position of the patient's thumbs differentiates them. In the Full Can Test, the patient's thumbs point upwards, mimicking the action of holding a full can. Conversely, in the Empty Can Test, the thumbs point downwards, as if emptying a can.

These tests aim to identify potential shoulder injuries, particularly those involving the rotator cuff. They can help detect rotator cuff tears, supraspinatus tendinopathy, or impingement syndromes. The examiner applies downward pressure on the patient's extended arms while the patient resists. Any pain or weakness experienced during this process can indicate a problem.

The Full Can Test, while simple, provides valuable insights into the shoulder's function and health. It can aid in the early detection of injuries, guide treatment decisions, and even monitor rehabilitation progress. Combined with a comprehensive clinical assessment, the Full Can Test can significantly contribute to effective and efficient patient care in orthopedic practice.

Watch this video to see how the Full Can Test is performed:

Printable Full Can Test

Download this Full Can Test to evaluate potential shoulder injuries in patients.

How does this Full Can Test work?

The Full Can Test, or the Empty Full Can Test involves a series of steps that assess the patient's ability to resist downward pressure applied to their extended arms. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Position the Patient

Position your patient to stand upright with their arms extended straight to their sides, parallel to the floor. This is the starting position for the test. In your table, under the 'Findings' column for this step, record any difficulties or discomfort the patient experiences while assuming this position.

Step 2: Instruct the Patient

Instruct the patient to rotate their arms so that their thumbs are pointing upwards, mimicking the action of holding a full can of soda. In the 'Findings' column, note if the patient has trouble following this instruction or experiences pain or discomfort.

Step 3: Apply Pressure

Stand facing the patient and place your hands on their extended arms, ready to apply downward pressure. This is a preparatory step, and any observations regarding the patient's posture, discomfort, or readiness can be noted in the 'Findings' column for this step.

Step 4: Test for Resistance

Ask the patient to resist as you apply downward pressure on their arms. This is the core of the test. In this step's 'Findings' column, you'll note any signs of weakness or pain during resistance. Does the patient struggle to maintain their arm position against your pressure? Do they express any discomfort? These observations are crucial for your final interpretation.

Step 5: Observe and Record

Continue observing the patient for discomfort, pain, or weakness during the resistance. Note any important observations in the 'Findings' column for this step.

Step 6: Document the Results

Finally, document the overall results of the test in the 'Findings' column for this step. Note any pain, weakness, or inability to resist the downward pressure. This is where you integrate all the information collected during the test to form a comprehensive understanding of the patient's condition.

Remember, a positive Full Can Test, indicating potential rotator cuff pathology, is marked by the patient experiencing pain or weakness during the test. Conversely, a negative test, suggesting a healthy supraspinatus muscle and tendon, involves no pain or weakness during the test.

After completing the table, it can be saved in the patient's record for future reference and follow-up evaluations.

Full Can Scoring

Scoring the Full Can Test is straightforward. A positive test, indicating potential rotator cuff pathology, is marked by the patient experiencing pain or weakness during the test, particularly when resisting downward pressure. A negative test, suggestive of a healthy supraspinatus muscle and tendon, involves no pain or weakness during the test.

Full Can Test Example (Sample)

W have provided a sample template with a fictional patient to guide you in performing and interpreting the Full Can Test. Download the PDF for a comprehensive look!

Download this Full Can Test  Example (Sample) here:

Full Can Test Example (Sample)

When to use this Full Can Assessment?

The Full Can Test is a valuable tool for healthcare professionals evaluating a patient with shoulder complaints. Here are some more specific situations when this test can be beneficial:

Persistent Shoulder Pain

One of the most common indications for this test is persistent shoulder pain that doesn't improve with rest or standard pain management strategies. Pain that worsens with movement, particularly overhead activities or lifting objects, may suggest a rotator cuff injury.

Limited Range of Motion

If a patient reports difficulty or discomfort when moving their arm in specific directions, the Full Can Test can help assess if the rotator cuff is the source of these limitations.


The Full Can Test can provide valuable insight if a patient reports weakness in their shoulder or arm, especially when lifting objects or performing specific movements. It evaluates the strength of the supraspinatus muscle, one of the main muscles in the rotator cuff.

After a Traumatic Event

Suppose a patient has recently experienced trauma to the shoulder, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm or a direct impact on the shoulder. In that case, the Full Can Test can help to evaluate for possible rotator cuff damage as part of the injury.

Chronic Conditions

In patients with chronic conditions that may affect the musculoskeletal system, such as rheumatoid arthritis, the Full Can Test can be helpful in routine monitoring of shoulder health.

Preoperative and Postoperative Assessment

The Full Can Test can be part of the assessment process before shoulder surgery to provide a baseline and monitor recovery and rehabilitation progress after surgery.

In all these scenarios, the Full Can Test is not used in isolation but as part of a comprehensive orthopedic assessment. Further diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies, might be needed to confirm the diagnosis. When interpreting the results, consider the patient's history, other physical examination findings, and the clinical context.

Benefits of Free Full Can Test

Leveraging the Full Can Test in clinical practice comes with several notable benefits. Whether you are a seasoned healthcare professional or a novice in the orthopedic field, this free resource is valuable in assessing and managing shoulder conditions. Here are some key advantages of incorporating the Full Can Test in your patient evaluations:

Ease of Use

The Full Can Test is straightforward to understand. Its simplicity makes it an accessible tool, even for those new to orthopedic assessments. The step-by-step procedure ensures that any healthcare practitioner can confidently perform the test and interpret its results.

Standardized Assessment

It provides a standardized method for assessing potential shoulder injuries. This uniformity helps eliminate variations in clinical evaluations, fostering more accurate and reliable diagnoses.

Early Detection of Pathologies

The Full Can Test is instrumental in the early detection of rotator cuff pathologies. By identifying any signs of pain or weakness during the test, healthcare professionals can quickly suspect a potential problem and guide the patient toward further diagnostic investigations.

Diagnostic and Treatment Planning

The test not only aids in diagnosing shoulder injuries but also informs treatment planning. The results of the Full Can Test can provide valuable insights to tailor a patient-specific management plan, be it physiotherapy, medications, or surgical interventions.

Progress Tracking

Lastly, the Full Can Test aids in tracking progress during rehabilitation. Repeated over time, it helps monitor a patient's recovery journey, providing objective data to adjust treatment plans and keep the patient informed about their improvement.

In essence, the Full Can Test is a versatile and valuable tool that enhances the quality of patient care in orthopedics.

Why use this Full Can app?

The Carepatron app is an excellent platform for performing this type of work. It provides comprehensive guides, tools, and resources for various assessments, including the Full Can Test. Its easy-to-use interface and built-in tools for documentation, scoring, and tracking patient progress simplify the clinical evaluation process.

Carepatron allows you to not only conduct the Full Can Test, but also to store all patient data securely. With features enabling easy sharing and access of patient records among a healthcare team, it ensures comprehensive and coordinated patient care. Moreover, its cloud-based nature allows access from anywhere, making it a handy tool for remote consultations and telemedicine.

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How to Perform the Full Can Test?
How to Perform the Full Can Test?

Commonly asked questions

How to Perform the Full Can Test?

The Full Can Test involves the patient standing upright, extending their arms to the sides, and rotating them so their thumbs pointing upwards. The examiner then applies downward pressure on the arms while the patient resists.

What does the Full Can Test measure?

The Full Can Test is designed to evaluate the integrity of the supraspinatus muscle and tendon, part of the shoulder's rotator cuff.

What is between-session reliability in the Full Can Test?

Between-session reliability refers to the consistency of the test results when performed at different times. A high between-session reliability in the Full Can Test means that the test results are consistent and reliable over multiple sessions.

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