Functional Movement Assessment In Physical Therapy – Quick Guide!


Movement is the foundation of human existence and allows us to interact with the environment and other living creatures. It begins in the womb, which acts as the base for the growth and development of an individual. As we go through infancy or early childhood, it advances into the traditional motor functioning phase. After a certain age, we reach a stage of full integration of reflexive behavior with highly developed, unique, and mature motor skills. Till we age, we continue to move functionally, but upon reaching old age, the normalcy of the movement is lost.

Movement becomes dysfunctional as a result of breakdowns in the movement system in response to neurological disorders, injuries from accidents or surgery, or other ailments. Therefore, we need a more functional and comprehensive movement screening for identifying impairments and dysfunctional movement patterns and improving the quality of life. This article will explore the benefits, functioning, and components of functional movement assessment. 

What Is Functional Movement Assessment?

Functional movement assessment, or FMA, is a 3-dimensional analysis used to discover muscle imbalances that hinder the ability to carry out an optimum level of performance or lead to injury. Here, the experts believe that every injury is connected to other dysfunctions we may have elsewhere in our body. In this procedure, in addition to healing the injury or a particular problem, physical therapists will also address the contributing factors.

Functional Movement Assessment

3-Step Process In FMA

An FMA acts as a baseline assessment to discover how an individual’s body is functioning. FMA has 3 assessment processes involved, and they are:

  1. Posture assessment: Here, the therapists will assess your posture. Poor posture can lead to overuse injuries.
  2. Walking and running gait analysis: Experts will evaluate different movement patterns to identify the dynamic imbalances. And based on your movements, these imbalances can be classified into short, long, tight, and weak muscles.
  3. Clinical evaluation: Here, the therapists will assess the strength, flexibility, and balance. This step can be customized depending on the sport you practice, your body fat measurements, endurance testing, and other performance reports. 

After the evaluation is complete, the therapists will chart your corrective exercise program, focusing on proper movement, strength, and balance correction.

Components Of FMA

FMA consists of 2 movement assessment systems, namely the selective functional movement assessment and the functional movement screen. These 2 systems have certain similarities in patterns of movement but possess unique aspects.

👉 Functional Movement Screen 

The functional movement screen, or FMS, is a predictive, functional screening system created for people for whom movement is a fundamental part of their exercise, recreation, fitness, or athletics. It can also be used for screening people involved in highly active professions.

It is basically a ranking and grading system that documents the patterns in the movement. By screening the movement patterns of the individuals, FMS identifies the presence of any functional limitations or asymmetries. These issues are said to reduce the effects of functional training, physical conditioning, and body awareness.

FMS testing comprises 3 functional movement patterns, 2 mobility-determining positions, and 2 movement patterns for core stability. FMS utilizes these fundamental movement patterns and generates scores based on your ability to complete the task and your feedback on pain and discomfort. According to the score the physical therapists will recommend exercises that will be most effective to restore your range of motion, reduce your pain levels, and improve strength.

👉 Selective Functional Movement Assessment

SFMA is a full body movement screen used to diagnose musculoskeletal dysfunction affected by pain. SFMA aims at observing and capturing the patterns of posture and function for comparison against a baseline. This procedure utilizes movements to provoke symptoms, demonstrate limitations, and offer awareness about the movement pattern deficiency with respect to the patient’s primary complaint.

SFMA is a 7 tier test that addresses movement and stability functions from head to toe. The test provides information about the contributing dysfunctional movement that hinders recovery or the recurrence of injuries. Based on the results, therapists create personalized treatment plans that incorporate manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. The SFMA procedure is proven to be appropriate for most people, including the elderly.

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Bottom Line

Functional movement assessment (FMA) is an analysis done to identify dysfunctions or imbalances in movements. The FMA program contains 2 components: selective functional movement assessment and functional movement screen.

While SFMA is a diagnostic measure designed to identify musculoskeletal dysfunction in individuals with pain, FMS is a screening or grading non-diagnostic tool that is intended to identify imbalances in mobility and stability during functional movements. These techniques will allow the therapists to choose the proper treatment methods for specific problem areas. 

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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