Have you tried the empty can test?

Have you tried the empty can test?

You might chalk up your shoulder pain to poor posture or sleeping on it the wrong way. However, if you experience prolonged pain, you may have torn your rotator cuff.

Your rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons responsible for moving your shoulder to allow you to reach for things, especially overhead, while keeping your shoulder in its proper position. Shoulder trauma, repetitive tasks, and natural wear and tear can cause a rotator cuff injury, especially as you get older.

“People who have jobs that require them to frequently extend their arms above their head, such as a painter, are likely to experience this condition,” explains Dr. James Krcik, a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Health Care.

If you feel discomfort or weakness when you raise your arm, you may want to try the empty can test. It’s one of the many tests used to detect rotator cuff tears in sports medicine clinics but also can be tried at home.

To perform the empty can test, follow these steps: 
  1. Stand up straight and raise your arms to the sides. At a 45-degree angle, point your thumbs down as if you were holding empty cans – thus the name.
  2. Have someone gently push down on your arms while you resist.
  3. If you feel pain or weakness in your shoulder, you may have a rotator cuff injury.

If you fail the test, you should consult a doctor who can perform a formal evaluation, imaging and provide treatment options if you are diagnosed with the injury.

“Treatment usually starts with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers,” says Dr. Krcik. “Physical therapy is also helpful in building up your injured shoulder’s strength. You may need surgery to repair the torn tendon(s) in your rotator cuff if non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief.”

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is an external communications specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her bachelor's degree in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in health care public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.