BACKGROUND: Alterations in glenohumeral and scapulothoracic kinematics have been theorized to contribute to rotator cuff pathology by impacting the magnitude of the subacromial space. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review is to summarize what is currently known about the relationship between shoulder kinematics and subacromial proximities. CONCLUSIONS: A variety of methods have been used to quantify subacromial proximities including photographs, MR imaging, ultrasonography, and single- and bi-plane radiographs. Changes in glenohumeral and scapulothoracic kinematics are associated with changes in subacromial proximities. However, the magnitude and direction of a particular motion's impact on subacromial proximities often vary between studies, which likely reflects different methodologies and subject populations. Glenohumeral elevation angle has been consistently found to impact subacromial proximities. Plane of humeral elevation also impacts subacromial proximities but to a lesser degree than the elevation angle. The impact of decreased scapulothoracic upward rotation on subacromial proximities is not absolute, but instead depends on the angle of humerothoracic elevation. The effects of scapular dyskinesis and humeral and scapular axial rotations on subacromial proximities are less clear. Future research is needed to further investigate the relationship between kinematics and subacromial proximities using more homogenous groups, determine the extent to which compression and other factors contribute to rotator cuff pathology, and develop accurate and reliable clinical measures of shoulder motion.