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What Should I Expect during a Shoulder Examination?

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman

During a shoulder examination, a doctor will look at your shoulder and feel it for any swelling or tenderness. Usually, you will have to disrobe enough for the doctor to clearly see and feel the shoulder during an examination. In the course of the examination, your doctor may perform specific tests, such as Jobe's test or Hawkins test, to determine your condition or evaluate range of motion.

When you visit a doctor for a physical and shoulder examination, you should expect to wear either a gown or tank top that allows the doctor to see your shoulder clearly from both the front and the back. Men may be comfortable enough to not wear a gown or topm while a woman may prefer to wear a top. The gown would need to tie below the armpit so that the shoulder is exposed.


In the course of a shoulder examination, you can also expect your doctor to look closely at the shoulder area. During the inspection, he is looking for signs of swelling as well as signs of atrophy of the muscle. Other things your doctor may look for include asymmetry of the shoulders and scarring. If your shoulder is possibly dislocated, he will look for deformities that suggest dislocation.

After inspecting the shoulder area, the doctor will press on and feel it. When feeling the shoulder, your doctor is looking for tenderness in the area as well as swelling or any deformity. He usually feels the joints and tendons in the area.

A doctor may perform a series of tests during a shoulder examination to asses the range of motion of your shoulder. During a Jobe's test, you will hold your arm at a 30-degree angle, as if you were pouring a beverage. If the position hurts, there may be a tear in the shoulder or some weakness.

The Hawkins test may be done determine if the rotator cuff has been injured. During the test, your arm is at a 90-degree angle at the shoulder and the elbow is bent at a 90-angle as well. The doctor will move your arm inward, bending it at the shoulder. If an injury is present, you will experience pain during the movement.

Other range-of-motion tests done during a shoulder examination include elevating the arm as if you were reaching up to take an object off a high shelf. Your doctor may also ask you to rotate your arms or bring them behind your back. To test for weakness, the doctor may push down on the arm while you extend it forward.

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