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The pectoralis minor length test: a study of the intra-rater reliability and diagnostic accuracy in subjects with and without shoulder symptoms

References: BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2007, 8:64

Background: Postural abnormality and muscle imbalance are thought to contribute to pain and a loss of normal function in the upper body. A shortened pectoralis minor muscle is commonly identified as part of this imbalance. Clinical tests have been recommended to test for shortening of this muscle. The aim of this study was to evaluate the intra-rater reliability and diagnostic accuracy of the pectoralis minor length test.
Methods: Measurements were made in 45 subjects with and 45 subjects without shoulder symptoms. Measurements were made with the subjects lying in supine. In this position the linear distance from the treatment table to the posterior aspect of the acromion was measured on two occasions (separated by a minimum of 30 minutes and additional data collection on other subjects to reduce bias) by one rater. The reliability of the measurements was analyzed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), 95% confidence intervals (CI) and standard error of measurement (SEM). The diagnostic accuracy of the test was investigated by determining the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratios of the test against a 'gold standard' reference. The assessor remained 'blinded' to data input and the measurements were staggered to reduce examiner bias.
Results: The pectoralis minor length test was found to have excellent intra-rater reliability for dominant and non-dominant side of the subjects without symptoms, and for the painfree and painful side of the subjects with symptoms. The values calculated for the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratios suggest this test performed in the manner investigated in this study and recommended in the literature, lacks diagnostic accuracy.
Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that although the pectoralis minor length test demonstrates acceptable clinical reliability, its lack of specificity suggests that clinicians using this test to inform the clinical reasoning process with regard treatment planning must do so with caution.


Quote from article:
"Although pectoralis minor shortening is central to the theory that is used to underpin the muscle imbalance approach in relation to shoulder and upper quadrant pathology the findings of this investigation suggest that although the test is reliable it lacks the diagnostic accuracy to identify subjects that have a shortening of this muscle as a cause or contribution to their symptoms. As such, at present, the findings of this investigation suggest this measurement should not be used as part of the clinical evaluation of patients with shoulder conditions."

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