INTRODUCTION: Adhesive capsulitis, a condition marked by pain and stiffness of the shoulder, can have a frustrating clinical course for patients and health care professionals. Despite huge research interest, a universally accepted and used definition of clinical criteria for the diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis is currently still lacking. This systematic review aimed to identify diagnostic values for clinical examinations tests used in the diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis.

EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: A total of 5 electronic databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials [CENTRAL] and PEDro) were searched for relevant studies from 2002 until October 2022 using the terms: "adhesive capsulitis AND diagnosis" and "frozen shoulder AND diagnosis." The Downs and Black Checklist (modified) was used to assess the risk of bias. The study protocol was prospectively registered at the International prospective register of systematic reviews (PROSPERO, CRD42022365993).

EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: The initial database search identified 1799 studies, of which 9 (0.50%) were eventually included in the systematic review. Non-intrusive shoulder range of motion measurements in patients with adhesive capsulitis using the Kinect for Windows (Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) showed high correlation with clinical range of motion measurement. Two specific clinical tests, the affected-unaffected shoulder approach of the Coracoid Pain Test and the Distension Test in Passive External Rotation, were identified and presented excellent sensibility and specificity in the diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis, in their original study. Comparison between clinical tests was not possible due to the heterogeneity in clinical tools.

CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review identified several physical examination tests developed for the diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis but could not compare them nor advance a set of clinical diagnostic tests that are scientifically validated. Further research is warranted to obtain validation of clinical diagnosis tools for adhesive capsulitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-730
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date22 Sep 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Edizioni Minerva Medica. All rights reserved.


  • Diagnosis
  • Diagnostic tests
  • routine
  • shoulder


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