top of page

Understanding the Painful Arc Test: a valuable clinical assessment maneuver

Updated: May 20, 2023

As dedicated practitioners, it's crucial to continually expand our knowledge and refine our assessment techniques. In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing world of the painful arc test—a valuable clinical assessment maneuver used to evaluate shoulder pain, including the prevalent condition of rotator cuff tendinitis. By gaining a deeper understanding of this test and its association with rotator cuff tendinitis, you'll be equipped with essential insights to enhance your remedial massage practices. Let's embark on this journey to uncover the secrets of the painful arc test and its relevance to rotator cuff tendinitis.

​This post draws from our professional development course on Rotator Cuff Tendinitis. Gain a deeper understanding of this essential shoulder structure, and its role in joint stability, while earning valuable CPD points towards your registration

Exploring the Painful Arc Test:

The painful arc test is a simple yet highly informative diagnostic tool that allows remedial massage therapists to assess shoulder pain, identify potential impingement, and shed light on underlying pathologies, such as rotator cuff tendinitis. It serves as a valuable piece of the puzzle in understanding and addressing shoulder-related issues.

Harnessing the Power of the Painful Arc Test:

As remedial massage therapists, integrating the painful arc test into your assessment toolkit can significantly enhance your understanding and treatment of shoulder conditions. By incorporating this test, you can gather critical insights into the location and intensity of pain, further guiding your treatment planning and therapeutic interventions. Remedial massage techniques targeting the affected muscles and surrounding structures can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and promote healing.

Performing the Painful Arc Test:

  • Client Positioning: Start by positioning your client in an upright and relaxed posture, ensuring their arms are at rest by their sides.

  • Controlled Range of Motion: Instruct the client to slowly raise their affected arm in a forward flexion motion, beginning from the resting position.

  • Observing Painful Ranges: Carefully observe the client's movements as they lift their arm, noting the point at which they experience pain or discomfort.

  • Documenting the Painful Range: Record the range of motion where the pain occurs and any additional symptoms or observations.

Interpreting the Results:

The painful arc test offers valuable insights into the location and timing of pain during specific shoulder movements. In the context of rotator cuff tendinitis, a positive test often manifests as pain occurring between approximately 60 to 120 degrees of shoulder abduction. This pain is commonly localised to the top or outer aspect of the shoulder.


The painful arc test serves as a gateway to understanding and addressing shoulder pain, particularly in the context of rotator cuff tendinitis. By incorporating this diagnostic tool into your remedial massage practice, you gain valuable insights into the underlying pathology, enabling you to design personalised treatment plans that focus on pain relief, improved function, and overall well-being. Embrace the power of the painful arc test to enhance your professional development and provide exceptional care to clients with rotator cuff tendinitis.


  1. Magee DJ. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th edition. Saunders; 2014.

  2. Lewis JS. Rotator cuff tendinopathy/subacromial impingement syndrome: is it time for a new method of assessment? Br J Sports Med. 2009;43(4):259-264.

  3. Teefey SA, Hasan SA, Middleton WD, et al. Ultrasonography of the rotator cuff. A comparison of ultrasonographic and arthroscopic findings in one hundred consecutive cases. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2000;82(4):498-504.


Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

massage cpd courses
bottom of page