Ask the Doc: The Functional Movement Screen

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Ask the Doc: The Functional Movement Screen

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” — Benjamin Franklin
The purpose of this article is to emphasize that your movement patterns are constantly changing. The human body is the ultimate compensating machine that is nothing short of amazing and keeps us moving for survival purposes. Unfortunately, compensation eventually comes at a cost. For the human body, that cost is usually paid with pain, injury and sub-maximal performance. Movement must be periodically screened or evaluated in order to have any chance of preventing injury, pain or functional decline.

Basic movement proficiency should be the foundation for any training program. If you have this foundation, then it is appropriate to move forward and discuss strength, endurance, power, and sport specific skill or technique refinement.
If you aren’t yet aware anything has changed, how can you address it? I am always amazed when I have an elderly patient referred for pain or injury related to a fall and so many times they (and their family members) truly did not think anything was wrong with their balance until they started having falls. The fall and the resulting injury was the culminating event that forced awareness, but their balance had probably been on the decline for years starting with subtle changes that they did not notice and no one was tracking. This is a life-threatening issue with staggering statistics that could easily be decreased with a lifetime habit of movement screening.

Waiting Can Hurt

Waiting for pain or injury to be your only cue for action is not the best plan. Imagine how long your car would last if you only popped the hood when the check engine light came on…. or worse yet, when you jumped in to head to work and the car would not start at all.

No one thinks twice about doing the maintenance and prevention tasks required to own a car and keep it running, so why is it so hard to do the same for most important vehicle you own: your one and only body?

Consider another example: Do you only go to the dentist when your tooth hurts? Most of us have been going to the dentist office twice a year for a check up since we were children, and we always hope we did enough brushing and flossing to avoid any painful and costly interventions. Even if you don’t get a gold star from the dentist, catching a cavity early and getting a filling is still easier to deal with than a root canal. The musculoskeletal system is no less important and the same practice of prevention and early detection should be made a priority through screening.

Functional Movement Screen

Functional Movement Screen
The Functional Movement Screen (FMS)™ is a research-based tool designed to screen the ability to perform 7 basic bodyweight movement patterns in pain-free, non-injured individuals. It is a screen and only a screen, not a diagnostic tool. For each of the 7 movements, an individual can receive a score of:

  • 0 (pain present)
  • 1 (not able to perform but not painful)
  • 2 (able to perform but with modification)
  • 3 (able complete the pattern in accordance with all specified criteria).
Things such as pregnancy and weight loss or gain related to activity or diet modifications alter movement patterns.
So a perfect (but extremely rare) score on the FMS is a total of 21. As a minimum standard, people (especially athletes) should be able to score at least a 2 on each individual movement (no scores of 0 or 1). Again, this is the minimum recommended standard, not optimal, and merely means that someone can complete the 7 movements without pain. Some asymmetries and compensatory patterns are most likely still present and would benefit from being addressed based on the individual athlete’s sport, competition level, and performance goals.

Basically, if you as the athlete have pain or the inability to complete single-repetition, simple bodyweight movements, you have no business performing more complex movements with additional physical load or metabolic demands. Basic movement proficiency should be the foundation for any training program. If you have this foundation, then it is appropriate to move forward and discuss strength, endurance, power, and sport specific skill or technique refinement.

“First move well, then move often.” — Gray Cook
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