Drop arm test
The drop arm test or Codman’s test is used to evaluate tears of the rotator cuff, specifically of the supraspinatus tendon.
To perform the test
The therapist snatches the patient’s shoulder to 90 ° and then asks the patient to slowly lower the arm to the side in a similar arc of motion.
A positive test is indicated by the inability to slowly return the arm to the side of the patient who has severe pain when endeavouring to do so.
The drop arm test is used to evaluate tears of the rotator cuff, particularly the supraspinatus.
- Sitting or standing
Stand behind the seated patient and abduct the patient’s arm to 90 degrees, holding the arm at the elbow. Release the elbow support and ask the patient to slowly lower the arm to the side.
The test is negative if the patient can control the lowering of the arm slowly and without their symptoms occur.
It is a positive test if there is a sudden dropping of the arm or weakness in maintaining arm position during the eccentric part of abduction, there may also be pain present while lowering the arm, suggesting a full-thickness tear to the supraspinatus.
The drop arm test works by subluxation the humeral head in search of a tear or weakness in the supraspinatus tendon.
Drop arm test movement
The patient is asked to actively lower the arm from abduction to the side in a slow and controlled manner.
A positive test is strongminded by the inability of the patient to smoothly control the lowering of their arm or the incapability to hold the arm in 90 degrees of abduction. On a positive test that begins above 90 degrees of abduction, the patient will tend to have difficulty controlling the movement around 90 degrees of abduction. Pain may or may not be reported. Pain alone is not a positive test.
Drop arm test accuracy
The precision of the test is very high.