What Can a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Do For You?

July 18, 2019

When evaluating clients early in my career, I would always focus just on their painful areas. When treating those painful spots, I would sometimes be successful, but often I would have to search elsewhere on the body in order to achieve any significant relief of pain. I had no clear cut path or system to zero in on the actual source of their pain. That was until I took the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) a few years ago with Mike Voight as the head instructor.

This course was a true eye opener for me. The SFMA is something I now use every day in my practice, and with every single patient. It is a systematic process of looking at the body as a whole to find the primary source of movement dysfunction and pain. Interestingly, the source of dysfunction is often not at the site where clients actually experience their symptoms.

Stability vs. Mobility

The assessment is that of 7 fundamental movement patterns called the “Top Tier” testing. Those movement tests lead to further movement pattern “breakouts” which ultimately enable the clinician to determine whether the root cause is more of a mobility problem versus a stability/motor control problem.

These two main problems can cause the same painful symptoms, however each dictates a different treatment approach. The SFMA is an assessment tool that can effectively streamline the way a clinician intervenes. But, the way you treat the identified dysfunction is totally up to you.

Test and Re-Test

The top tier testing provides a great baseline measure for my clients each visit. It also allows me to check if (and how much) the treatment intervention made a difference in their functional movement patterns.

Test and then re-test. For example, if you fail Multi-Segmental Flexion (MSF), you will perform a few sets of a few different exercises. MSF will then be re-tested to see if you are now able to touch your toes. Having this baseline functional movement to gauge the effectiveness of the treatment is something that has helped me greatly. Additionally, my clients now have tangible results.

Getting to the Source of Pain

The SFMA is a total body, global approach, with the primary goal of identifying which portion of a functional movement pattern is not allowing the patient to perform the movement functionally and non-painfully, via the breakouts. It looks beyond local impairments, because it is more important to understand how this local impairment can influence their global functional movement patterns. It is not until this impairment starts to negatively impact their posture or the way they move that it becomes a problem.

For instance, if someone has limited shoulder mobility but does not exercise or play sports, this probably will not become an issue for that person. However, if he or she decides to do any overhead sport actions (tennis serve, throw a baseball, block a shot), or participates in a CrossFit program doing clean and presses, they will be at serious risk for global compensation… and injury will not be far behind.

The goal of the SFMA is to determine the local impairment and the relationship with the movement pattern. We move in patterns, not in individual segments. The whole is only as good as the sum of all its parts.

I have been utilizing the SFMA approach for a few years now. I have had a lot of success with it, and the more I use it, the more efficient my treatments get.

Disclaimer:  I will say that the breakouts are very intimidating at first. I still am referencing the flow charts when taking a client through them. Initially, I wanted to go through it off of memory, but in reality they are just too complex when you are just incorporating it into your practice. The patient simply wants to get better. They will be okay with you doing whatever is necessary to put them in the best scenario for success.

Always keep in mind if you are new to exercising or are dealing with an injury, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Need help? We're here for you. Contact us today to request an appointment. Also check out our Telehealth offerings to get help from the comfort of your home.

Dr. Bryan Carestia

Physical Therapist & Owner (Newtown, PA)
Bryan Carestia is a highly skilled Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with more than a decade of experience helping people overcome pain and safely return to a fulfilling life of sport, activity and wellness. He works at Activcore in Newtown, Pennsylvania.‍ With an extensive clinical background and education, Bryan is uniquely qualified to handle more complex pain conditions that other practitioners could not resolve.


What Can a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Do For You?

The SFMA is something I now use every day in my practice, and with every single patient. It is a systematic process of looking at the body as a whole to find the primary source of movement dysfunction and pain. Interestingly, the source of dysfunction is often not at the site where clients actually experience their symptoms.


Why Do I Feel Unbalanced? Postural Restoration Explained

Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) is a clinical education program started in Lincoln, Nebraska by a physical therapist, Ron Hruska, over 30 years ago. He looked at the human body as being asymmetrical. The muscular, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, and vision systems are not the same on the left side of the body as they are on the right side. They have different responsibilities, functions, positions and demands placed on them.


Understanding Pain and How A Skilled PT Can Help.

Why are you seeking PT? Are you rehabbing post-op (after surgery), recovering from an injury, or looking for guidance and training for athletics? While these are all popular and valid reasons for seeking out a qualified physical therapist, one of the main reasons people come to physical therapy is due to pain.


Why Back and Neck Pain Are Common in Cops – and How to Fix It Without Surgery

Studies have confirmed that standing for long periods of time, a routine part of a police officer's job, causes back pain. While 62% of police officers suffer from low back pain, only 9% experienced low back pain before joining the force. These statistics show us that low back pain can unfortunately be one common and negative side effect of being a law enforcement officer.


How Can Breathing Possibly Help Fix My Back Pain?

Have you ever had back pain? Have you tried stretching and doing some core exercises, but the problem persists? If so, you're not alone. The "old" way of correcting back pain is out; breathing is where it's at. What if you are not breathing correctly? Yes, that is a thing.


From Boxing to Breathing: The Many Functions of the Serratus Anterior Muscle

The serratus anterior is commonly referred to as the Boxer’s Muscle. It is a fan-shaped muscle that originates on the superolateral surfaces of ribs 1 to 8 (or even 9 in some people) at the lateral wall of the thorax, and inserts along the superior angle, medial border, and inferior angle of the scapula.‍ Given its anatomical location, origin and insertion, and extensive documentation, we know that the serratus anterior muscle is critical in healthy shoulder function.