Sulcus Tests

Use our free Sulcus Test for an enhanced orthopedic practice. Dive into its use step-by-step process and download a free PDF example here.

By Olivia Sayson on Jul 05, 2024.


Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is a Sulcus Test?

"Sulcus" refers to a crevice, groove, furrow, or fissure found in various body parts. These sulci can be present in different organs and structures, such as the brain, heart, bones, etc. In biological morphology and anatomy, a sulcus is a depression or indentation in a surface, which can serve as a natural division or separation between different parts of an organ or structure.

The is a commonly used orthopedic examination test designed to assess inferior instability in the shoulder's glenohumeral joint. This examination focuses on the glenohumeral joint capsule and the ligamentous structures, particularly the superior glenohumeral and coracohumeral ligaments.

The test is typically conducted with the subject seated and the arm to be evaluated in a relaxed position. One of the examiner's hands stabilizes the shoulder girdle on the tested side while the other hand firmly grasps the elbow of the tested arm. The movement involves pulling down on the subject's elbow.

A positive outcome of the Sulcus Sign test is indicated by the noticeable inferior movement of the arm relative to the shoulder, often accompanied by a visible 'sulcus' or 'step-off deformity' between the acromion and the humeral head. While pain and apprehension may or may not be present, a positive result suggests the presence of inferior or multidirectional instability (MDI) in the shoulder.

How Does it Work?

Orthopedic professionals can use our Printable Sulcus Test to evaluate inferior instability in the shoulder's glenohumeral joint. Here's a breakdown of its procedure:

Step One: Introduce the test to clients

The orthopedic professional introduces the Sulcus Test to the patient, providing an overview of its purpose and ensuring the patient understands that there are no right or wrong outcomes. The patient is informed that the test involves a specific arm movement.

Step Two: Help the client get the right starting position

The patient is seated, and the arm to be tested is allowed to relax. One of the examiner's hands stabilizes the shoulder girdle on the evaluated side while the other securely holds the patient's elbow.

Step Three: Initiate the test

The examiner initiates the test by gently pulling the patient's elbow down, creating a specific movement at the glenohumeral joint.

Step Four: Decode positive result

A positive result is indicated if there is noticeable downward movement of the arm with the shoulder joint, accompanied by a visible 'sulcus' or a distinct step-off between the acromion and the humeral head. While discomfort or apprehension may or may not be experienced, a favorable outcome suggests the presence of inferior or multidirectional instability (MDI) in the shoulder.

Sulcus Tests Example (sample)

The Sulcus Tests PDF involves a precise procedure to assess inferior shoulder joint instability. With the patient comfortably seated, the examiner initiates the test by firmly grasping the patient's elbow and gently pulling downward. 

A positive result is observed when the arm exhibits downward movement relative to the shoulder, accompanied by a visible 'sulcus' or step-off between the acromion and the humeral head. This outcome suggests potential inferior or multidirectional instability, informing further evaluation and treatment decisions. 

The Sulcus Test's accuracy ensures dependable diagnostic insights, assisting orthopedic professionals in delivering targeted care for shoulder instability. Through this test, clinicians gain a nuanced understanding of the joint's condition, fostering patient trust and effective management. The Sulcus Test template stands as a vital tool in the journey to restore shoulder stability.

Download this Sulcus Test Example:

Sulcus Tests Example (sample)

When would you use this Form?

The Sulcus Tests are tailored for orthopedic professionals and clinicians seeking to assess shoulder instability. Here are situations where this template would be aptly employed:

Orthopedic Practitioners

Orthopedic specialists can integrate the Sulcus Test template into their evaluation process when examining patients with suspected shoulder instability. This test provides objective insights into the joint's stability and aids in formulating accurate diagnoses.

Sports Medicine Professionals

Sports medicine experts working with athletes prone to shoulder injuries can utilize the Sulcus Test template for pre-participation evaluations. 

Rehabilitation Specialists

Rehabilitation professionals guiding patients through shoulder recovery can incorporate the Sulcus Test template to monitor progress. This template aids in tracking stability improvements and informs the adjustment of rehabilitation protocols.

Diagnostic Assessments

In diagnostic settings, the Sulcus Test template can be employed to confirm or rule out shoulder instability as the cause of a patient's symptoms. Its reliability contributes to accurate diagnostic decision-making.

Treatment Planning

Orthopedic professionals can use the Sulcus Test template to establish baseline stability measurements, making it easier to track the effectiveness of interventions over time. 

Research and Studies

Researchers investigating shoulder instability can utilize the Sulcus Test template to gather quantitative data in clinical studies. Its consistent and accurate outcomes can contribute to a deeper understanding of the prevalence and factors associated with this condition.


Our Free Sulcus Tests provide a thorough understanding of the joint's stability, aiding in accurate diagnostic assessments.

Objective Measurement

With the Sulcus Test template, orthopedic professionals can obtain objective measurements of shoulder instability. This data-driven approach enhances precision in evaluation and decision-making.

Targeted Treatment Planning

Utilizing the Sulcus Test template empowers practitioners to create tailored treatment plans for patients with specific shoulder instability concerns. This customization optimizes patient care and recovery.

Accurate Progress Tracking

The Sulcus Test template is a reliable tool for patients undergoing treatment to track progress over time. This allows practitioners to adjust interventions based on measurable improvements.

Enhanced Surgical Decisions

The Sulcus Test template helps in making informed decisions about surgical interventions for shoulder instability. It provides a clear assessment of the joint's stability, guiding the necessity and timing of surgical procedures.

Educational Enhancement

The Sulcus Test template enriches educational settings by allowing students to learn and practice the assessment of shoulder instability. This hands-on experience enhances their diagnostic skills and clinical understanding.

Versatile Application

From diagnosis to rehabilitation, the Sulcus Test template finds utility in various stages of patient care. Its applicability extends to sports medicine, orthopedics, research studies, and beyond.

Research & Evidence

The term "sulcus," referring to a groove or indentation, has contributed to understanding anatomical structures, including joints, bones, and their functionalities. While the direct historical narrative of the term in medical literature might be less prominent, the broader history of anatomical discovery lays the foundation for the assessment of shoulder instability using the Sulcus Test.

Throughout history, medical practitioners have benefited from understanding anatomical landmarks and variations. The concept of the "sulcus" has helped guide medical procedures involving the shoulder joint.

The Sulcus Test has emerged as a valuable tool for diagnosing shoulder instability in modern medical practice. This test involves assessing the presence of a visible gap or sulcus between the acromion and the humeral head during specific movements. This phenomenon indicates inferior or multidirectional instability. A combination informs the development of this test of historical anatomical knowledge and contemporary clinical research.

Evidence from research studies and advancements in imaging techniques continue to enrich our understanding of this phenomenon, contributing to improved medical procedures and better patient care in orthopedics.

Why use Carepatron as your Sulcus Test app?

As a trailblazer in healthcare technology, Carepatron is committed to catering our platform to the specific needs of practitioners to streamline their operations. We have thousands of resources ready at their disposal, like the Sulcus Tests app.

Our state-of-the-art practice management software is meticulously designed to simplify and elevate your operations. Just as we provide our innovative Sulcus Tests software, our commitment extends to offering healthcare professionals a streamlined approach to managing their workflows.

With our platform, you can optimize payment processes, drastically reducing patients' time to settle their bills. Embrace the convenience and security of online payments while maintaining the highest standards of confidentiality.

Our intuitive dashboard provides a comprehensive practice overview, enabling effortless appointment management, financial tracking, and more. With Carepatron at your side, you'll free up valuable time to focus on patient care, knowing your practice is operating seamlessly.

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Clinical Documentation Software


“The Sulcus Sign: A Historical Perspective" by Michael J. O'Brien, et al. (2008). This study provides a historical overview of the sulcus test. The authors discuss the origins of the test, its development over time, and its current use.

"The Sulcus Sign: A Critical Review" by Daniel P. Cooper, et al. (2013). This study critically reviewed the literature on the sulcus test. The authors concluded that the sulcus test is a useful clinical test for anterior shoulder instability, but it should be used in conjunction with other tests to diagnose.

Who typically uses Sulcus Tests?
Who typically uses Sulcus Tests?

Commonly asked questions

Who typically uses Sulcus Tests?

Orthopedic professionals, sports medicine practitioners, and clinicians specializing in shoulder assessments commonly use Sulcus Tests.

When are Sulcus Tests used?

Sulcus Tests are employed to assess shoulder stability, especially in suspected inferior or multidirectional instability cases.

How are Sulcus Tests used?

During Sulcus Tests, the examiner stabilizes the shoulder girdle, holds the patient's elbow, and gently pulls downward to observe for a visible sulcus or step-off deformity between the acromion and humeral head, indicating potential instability.

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