The full can test is theorized to produce compressive loads on the supraspinatus tendon within the subacromial space. Characterizing the width of the subacromial outlet, scapular orientation, and shoulder pain during the full can test will improve the mechanistic understanding of the positive full can test.
Cross-sectional repeated measures design. Participants with subacromial pain syndrome (n=30) were compared to a matched control group (n=30) during 2 conditions: passive support, and the full can test. The full can test was performed with the arm elevated to 90° in the scapular plane. In both conditions, measurements were taken of acromiohumeral distance with ultrasonography, scapular position using electromagnetic tracking, shoulder strength using a dynamometer, and shoulder pain with the 11-point rating scale. During the full can test, both groups had a decreased acromial humeral distance, scapular upward rotation, posterior tilt, external rotation and clavicular protraction as compared to passive support (p<0.05). The subacromial pain group as compared to the control group reported greater shoulder pain (p<0.001), reduced strength (p=0.002) and greater scapular anterior tilt (p<0.05) during the full can test.
This study indicates the mechanisms of a full can test are a reduction in the acromial humeral distance, accompanied by scapular kinematic changes. A positive test of increased pain and reduced strength in those with subacromial pain syndrome can be explained additionally by an increase in scapular anterior tilt. These mechanistic changes may lead to tendon compression, but this cannot be verified as direct tendon compression was not measured.