What do we know about the reliability and validity of physical examination tests used to examine the upper extremity?

J Hand Surg Am. 1999 Jan;24(1):185-93. doi: 10.1053/jhsu.1999.jhsu24a0185.


The literature regarding the reliability and validity of commonly used clinical tests for disorders of the upper extremity was reviewed. Formal literature search, standard texts, and experts in the field of upper extremity were consulted to locate relevant articles. Range of motion and strength testing of the upper limb have been shown to be reliable, while various tests used for the diagnosis of conditions in the upper limb, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and rotator cuff tendinopathy, have been shown to have varying degrees of validity. Overall, however, we determined that there is little evidence regarding the reliability and validity of physical examination for the upper extremity and specifically less information available regarding the reliability of diagnostic physical examination tests and the validity of impairment measures used for the upper limb. Further studies in this area are warranted in view of the impact of these findings on the treatment of patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm*
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Physical Examination*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Sensitivity and Specificity