Shoulder Assessment

Shoulder Symptom Modification Procedure (SSMP)

Check our shop
Shoulder symptom modification procedure

Shoulder Symptom Modification Procedure (SSMP)

We wrote quite an extensive series on shoulder impingement based on Cools algorithm from the year 2008. Through the use of several clinical tests, you should be able to identify the underlying pathological mechanism for the shoulder pain your patient is experiencing. 

Usually, the problem with pain provocation tests is that they commonly rate low in terms of specificity. In other words, it’s practically impossible to isolate a single rotator cuff tendon from other structures such as the innervated bursae within the subacromial space, and form a diagnosis from the results. 

The shoulder symptom modification procedure by Jeremy Lewis (2009) looks at shoulder impingement in a way that could be described as mechanical shoulder pain. 

Once the general assessment process meaning: history taking, ROM, strength tests, and neurological testing is done the clinician and patient will identify the pain-provoking movement or positions

From there on a four-stage process begins. The painful movement is performed and the clinician applies an algorithm of the following procedures and assesses for symptom modification, in other words: pain reduction. 

Meakins et al. (2018) evaluated the SSMP regarding its inter-rater reliability and found a moderate inter-rater reliability of k = 0.47

Let’s say flexion of the shoulder is painful. 

One stage of the SSMP is targeting thoracic kyphosis. If your patient demonstrates increased thoracic kyphosis, techniques to actively extend the T-spine like ‘finger on the sternum’ can be used,  or passive techniques like taping or manual therapy are applied and then the painful movement is reassessed for change in pain. If thoracic maneuvers reduce the pain by 100% the assessment is complete and treatment targeted at the thoracic spine would start.

Thoracic thrust manip

If thoracic modification did not alleviate symptoms 100%, the position of the scapula is altered using manual techniques for simple movements or taping for complex movements. This may happen in several planes for example elevation or protraction, or a combination of movements. 


This is different from the scapular assistance test where you are assisting the scapula to move. In scapular modification, you place the scapula in a new starting positing allowing it to move from that position without assistance.

Scapular elevation2

If winging is apparent, manual stabilization or taping techniques are used. The painful movement is then reassessed.

The third stage concerns the positioning of the humeral head within the glenoid fossa. For example: using a neoprene sling or manual pressure, an AP or PA force is applied and the painful movement is reassessed.

Furthermore, the painful movement is executed whilst simultaneously contracting surrounding muscles, for example, the external rotators or humeral head depressors.

Shoulder symptom modification procedure



Physiotutors Free Assessment E-book


There are a couple of orthopedic tests that are used in the SSMP or related to this post that you might find interesting:




Lewis, J. S. (2009). Rotator cuff tendinopathy/subacromial impingement syndrome: is it time for a new method of assessment?. British journal of sports medicine43(4), 259-264.

Cools, A. M., Cambier, D., & Witvrouw, E. E. (2008). Screening the athlete’s shoulder for impingement symptoms: a clinical reasoning algorithm for early detection of shoulder pathology. British journal of sports medicine42(8), 628-635.

Meakins, A., May, S., & Littlewood, C. (2018). Reliability of the Shoulder Symptom Modification Procedure and association of within-session and between-session changes with functional outcomes. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine4(1), e000342.



  • 600+ Pages e-Book
  • Interactive Content (Direct Video Demonstration, PubMed articles)
  • Statistical Values for all Special Tests from the latest research
  • Clinical Value Recommendation
  • Detailed descriptions & searchable
  • Currently on Version 6.0 – Free lifetime updates
  • Available in 🇬🇧 🇩🇪 🇫🇷 🇪🇸 🇮🇹 🇵🇹 🇹🇷
  • And much more!


Assessment app banner
Assessment E-book

What customers have to say about the Assessment E-Book

Check out our all in one book!
Download our FREE app