Goniometric assessment of shoulder range of motion: comparison of testing in supine and sitting positions

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1998 Jun;79(6):647-51. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(98)90038-7.


Objective: To examine intrarater reliability in measurements of active range of motion and passive range of motion of shoulder flexion and abduction when motions are assessed in sitting, as compared with supine.

Design: Thirty adult subjects were measured eight times, in random order, for each of the two shoulder motions: two passive and two active measurements while sitting, and two passive and two active measurements while supine. Data were analyzed to determine intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) and paired t values between trials 1 and 2 for measurements in the same position, and between sitting and supine trials for each type of measurement.

Settings: Rehabilitation facility and university.

Study population: Volunteer sample: 11 rehabilitation inpatients; 19 university students.

Results: ICCs between trials 1 and 2 on comparable measurements in the same position indicated high intrarater reliability for active and passive measurements, regardless of testing position. ICCs between comparable measurements in the two testing positions indicated only a moderate level of agreement. Paired t tests between comparable readings taken in sitting versus supine revealed no significant differences for flexion, but significantly higher measurements of abduction when testing in the supine position.

Conclusions: Measurements in sitting or supine yield similarly high intrarater reliability. Lowered reliability between measurements taken in different positions indicates that test position should be routinely recorded, and repeated clinical measures of individual subjects should be administered in a consistent position.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Range of Motion, Articular* / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology*
  • Supine Position / physiology*