Painful Arc Tests

Identify with the painful arc test if your patient has subacromial impingement syndrome. Click here for more information and a free template.

By Patricia Buenaventura on Jul 15, 2024.

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Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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Painful Arc Tests PDF Example
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What is a Painful Arc Test?

The is one of several assessments used to identify potential subacromial impingement syndrome in patients. While it is not recommended as a standalone test for a definitive diagnosis, combining it with the Hawkins-Kennedy impingement test and Neer test can significantly enhance diagnostic accuracy. A positive result from these combined tests may indicate the necessity for further evaluation.

During a painful arc test, a patient will be asked to abduct their arms along the scapular plane until their arm is 180 degrees from where they began. If they feel pain in their arm when it’s located between 60 degrees and 180 degrees, it indicates a positive test result.

A standardized template for this test doesn’t exist like other physical exams. For your ease and benefit, we’ve created a painful arc test template for practitioners like you. You can use this document as a guide, reference, or place to record your patient’s results.

In our template, you can expect to see the following:

  • Basic essential information such as the examination date, patient name, and your name as the examiner
  • Directions on conducting the test
  • A guide on how to know if your patient is positive
  • A dedicated, provided space where you can write your patient’s results and any additional observations/findings

Think you could use a template like this in your practice? Proceed to the next section for more information on downloading and using the painful arc template.

How does it work?

Access and Download the Template

Access and download our printable painful arc test template by doing either of the following:

Conduct the Test

After your patient has filled out the section for essential information, you may follow the test instructions provided on the template.

We’ve also provided the step-by-step below so you can prepare beforehand.

Painful Arc Test Instructions

  1. Have the patient in a sitting or a standing position.
  2. Ask them to slowly abduct their arm/s with their thumbs pointing upwards, or, in simpler terms, ask them to lift their arm/s to the side slowly.
  3. Ask them to stop when they feel pain.
  4. Then, ask them to keep going until the pain stops and they reach 180 degrees on the scapular plane.
  5. Afterward, ask them to slowly lower their arms and stop when they feel pain again.
  6. Finally, ask them to lower it further until their arm/s is/are at their side.
  7. You may ask them to repeat the test once more.

Interpret

When you’ve finished, you may proceed with interpretation.

Here’s the test result guide you will find on your template:

Painful Arc Test Result:

(+) Positive Test if:

  • The patient feels pain when their arm is between 60 and 120 degrees on the scapular plane

In addition, feel free to write down any additional notes, observations, or findings in the space provided at the bottom of the template.

Proceed with Further Examination

Since the painful arc test can’t be the sole basis for diagnosis, it's best to proceed with further examination if the patient tests positive in this assessment.

When would you use this Form?

Practitioners such as physical therapists, orthopedic specialists, general physicians, and sports therapists may use the painful act test templates while conducting the painful arc test, one of the many assessments done to identify subacromial impingement syndrome in a patient.

Specifically, to know when one can have the patient undergo the painful arc test are when they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Pin when they reach something, even toward the back
  • Pain when they lift their arm from something high or move their arm above their head
  • Pain and tenderness when the arm’s at rest
  • Pain from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm
  • Having difficulty sleeping or lying on the affected side of the body
  • Weakness or stiffness in the arm

Benefits

Accessible

Unlike other physical exams or assessments, our free painful arc test template is accessible and can be accessed without signing up for an account or paying.

Saves Time and Effort

With this painful arc template, you can save time and effort that would’ve been spent searching for instructions on the test and creating notes for results from scratch. You can easily streamline the process from assessing your patient to producing results with the help of our template.

Written Copies for Reference

Since there aren’t any standardized templates for the painful arc test, having a document where you can write results and additional observations/findings would be helpful. Such a document will make it easier for you to conduct further examinations and explain your patient’s condition to fellow practitioners.

Entirely Digital

Even though our painful arc test is printable, you can download and use it digitally. Access it on any device you have on hand and store completed ones for quick access on Carepatron anytime.

Research & Evidence

According to a study, the painful arc test, compared with other clinical diagnostic tests used to diagnose subacromial impingement syndrome, is lower in terms of specificity than the drop arm test and Yergason, in addition to having low sensitivity. However, according to other research, it’s still acceptable for clinical use and helps the practitioner better diagnose especially if combined with other tests. 

References

Çalış M, Akgün K, Birtane M, et al. Diagnostic values of clinical diagnostic tests in subacromial impingement syndromeAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2000;59:44-47.

Michener, L. A., Walsworth, M. K., Doukas, W. C., & Murphy, K. P. (2009). Reliability and diagnostic accuracy of 5 physical examination tests and combination of tests for subacromial impingement. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 90(11), 1898–1903. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2009.05.015

Who typically uses Painful Arc Tests?
Who typically uses Painful Arc Tests?

Commonly asked questions

Who typically uses Painful Arc Tests?

Practitioners who diagnose or treat shoulder injuries or conditions, such as physical therapists, orthopedic therapists, sports therapists, and general physicians, can use the painful arc test template. 

When are Painful Arc Tests used?

They are used while the practitioner conducts the painful arc test and if the patient needs to reproduce the symptoms of a subacromial impingement syndrome.

How are Painful Arc Tests used?

They can be used as a template, guide, or document to take down notes.

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