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.
Trial registration: National Research Register: N0060148286.