The Painful Arc Test – Subacromial Impingement

 In Shoulder

The Painful Arc Test:

The Painful Arc Test is a really simple yet super effective screen which you can seamlessly integrate into your classes! And the information you’ll get back from this screen can really help you to understand the where’s and why’s of someone’s discomfort.

But before we jump right into the screen let’s discuss what we’re actually looking out for here – It’s called Subacromial Impingement.

If you’re not sure what that is, 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 Painful Arc Test Screen:

We’re continually asking our clients to raise their arms during various exercises – and sometimes when they do, you might often hear reports of pain or discomfort. The location of pain will indicate different issues but for the Painful Arc Test, this is looking at Subacromial Impingement and you’re specifically looking at pain happening between the 60° – 120° angle.

It’s this angle where the tissues between the head of the humerus and the acromion can get pinched. In this range, it’s usually the supraspinatus or coracoid ligament which can get trapped.

During this screen, you just need to ask your client to abduct their arms – Leading the movement with the thumbs and getting feedback from them for any reports of pain, pinching or discomfort.

If they had pain within that 60° – 120° range then you would know that they’re testing positive for the Painful Arc Test.

Having said that, you may get clients where there is no pain throughout that range but then they get discomfort between 170° – 180° – This would be more of an indication for something like acromioclavicular impingement – And that’s for a whole other day!

How you would help your client if they test positive for this test 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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