Shoulder pain in the general population is common and to identify the aetiology of shoulder pain, history, motion and muscle testing, and physical examination tests are usually performed. The aim of this systematic review was to summarise and evaluate intrarater and inter-rater reliability of physical examination tests in the diagnosis of shoulder pathologies.
A comprehensive systematic literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) through 20 March 2015. Methodological quality was assessed using the Quality Appraisal of Reliability Studies (QAREL) tool by 2 independent reviewers. The search strategy revealed 3259 articles, of which 18 finally met the inclusion criteria. These studies evaluated the reliability of 62 test and test variations used for the specific physical examination tests for the diagnosis of shoulder pathologies. Methodological quality ranged from 2 to 7 positive criteria of the 11 items of the QAREL tool.
This review identified a lack of high-quality studies evaluating inter-rater as well as intrarater reliability of specific physical examination tests for the diagnosis of shoulder pathologies. In addition, reliability measures differed between included studies hindering proper cross-study comparisons.