The Empty Can Test – Subacromial Impingement

 In Shoulder

The Empty Can Test:

We’re back and continuing our series looking for Subacromial Impingement using the Empty Can Test. You may have already seen our previous post on The Painful Arc Test which also looks for Subacromial Impingement as well – And you may wonder why we’ve got more than one screen looking for the same condition…there’s actually quite a few! And the reason behind the series of tests we recommend, is based on their sensitivity and specificity. Some of the screens are better for ruling issues out and others are good for ruling them in so but assembling an accumulative group, it’ll help to provide you with a better picture of what’s going on in the shoulder.

If you’re not sure what we mean when we refer to Subacromial Impingement, then it might be worth you checking out our Bony Landmarks video. Our very own Bonnie Southgate walks you through the shoulder complex and highlights all of the key components you’ll need to know in order to understand the proceeding screens. You can check out that video here – And whilst you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe as this will allow you to receive all of the latest content and keep you up to date with what’s happening at Pilates Therapy!

So back to it…

Subacromial Impingement: 

Subacromial impingement is an irritation or inflammation to the rotator cuff tendons as they pass through the subacromial space. This can cause pain, weakness and reduced range of motion within the shoulder complex.

Subacromial Space for Subacromial Impingement

The Empty Can Test Screen:

This test aims to test the client in a resisted range of motion so whilst it’s testing for the same pathology – it’s being targeted in a different way. Before with the Painful Arc Test, we were testing the client under an active range of motion and looking for reports of pain or discomfort.

This screen requires your client to assemble the scaption position (and if you’re not sure what this is, then you should definitely attend our Shoulders course!) Next, you will need to ask your client to internally rotate the arms and have the thumbs pointing down at the floor.

Once in this position, you will be applying a downward force which prevents further elevation of the scapula as your client resists your force. If you hear reports of pain or discomfort from your client then this would be a positive test for Subacromial Impingement.

How you would help your client if they test positive for this screen is further explored on our Shoulders course, so if you’d like to learn more, feel free to get in touch and join us on our next Shoulders module!

Interested in learning more?

…If you’re looking to learn more about the shoulder, we have our Shoulders course taking place in Dorset on 6th July and in Gatwick during our Intensive Bridging Course on August 15th – For more information you can either click here, or to book onto the course, please feel free to email us at

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