So you’ve heard me mention functional movement a few times, I went to a whole conference on it in Raleigh, it’s a bit of a buzzword in the fitness world these days but you may not be exactly sure what it really means, or what it means for you.

What IS functional movement? 

A basic definition of functional movement is: movement that is based on real-world biomechanics.  These movements are usually multi-planar, multi-joint and require adequate motor control. In other words functional movements are usually whole body movements that can be applied in many different real-world situations – think about a squat, or pulling and pushing progressions – these are movements we use variations of many many times a day – going from sitting to standing, pushing a box on an overhead shelf, pulling the cord to start your lawn mower…

If that’s still not particularly clear – contrast functional movement to something like sport-specific movement or muscle-specific movement.   For instance – sport-specific movements might be hitting a baseball, a tennis serve, kicking a soccer ball – while there is often some cross-over between sports-specific and functional movements, sport-specific movements tend to be of higher complexity and less broadly applicable to everyday life.  Muscle-specific movements aim to isolate a specific muscle so that it alone (or mostly) is doing the work – think bicep curl, or leg extension machine.  These exercises are generally less practical in day to day life, there are very rarely times when you will be required to use an isolated muscle to complete a task outside of a gym.

Why does this matter?

Think about it, have you ever injured yourself and realized exactly how difficult it was to do basic every-day things like put on shoes, or sit on the toilet, or get a shirt on or off?  I know I have, and pretty much every one of my patients has experienced this at some point.  That is dysfunctional movement and pain.  However, it is entirely possible (and very common) to have dysfunctional movement without pain and you may not even be aware of it.  What do you think happens over time if you have a non-painful dysfunctional movement pattern?  If your answer is get injured, dingdingding! you win! If we don’t correct dysfunctional movement patterns, over time they will become more dysfunctional and likely set us up for future injury. This is where movement screening and assessment comes in.

What is a movement assessment/screen and why would I need one? 

A movement screen is used if you don’t currently experience any pain and it is used to predict injury risk.  By rating your movements in a screen, your score will tell you how functional/dysfunctional your movements are.  A movement assessment is used when pain exists.  Since pain absolutely alters the way we move, we have to look at it a bit differently and try to determine what is causing the inability/dysfunction.

In the words of Gray Cook:
“Movement screening and movement assessment are important because these two systems bridge the gap between real life activities, and medical or performance testing and advanced biomechanical analysis.”

In the sports medicine world it is a well-know fact that the biggest predictor of injury is previous injury.  So, how do we get better at preventing injury? – we can’t just look at tissues and joints and ranges of motion, we have to look at the big picture, not just all the pieces, but also how our brains are talking to them.  And one way to do this is to look at both the quality and quantity of movement in a standardized way, such as through a functional movement screen (FMS) or a selective functional movement assessment (SFMA).  As most of my patients are already in pain when I see them, I decided to start incorporating the SFMA into my practice. This is a big piece of what I learned at the Functional Movement Summit out in Raleigh and I think it fits beautifully into Anatomy Acupuncture’s practice paradigm.  So, be on the look out – I’ll probably be assessing your movement in the near future.

One more thought: 

We don’t move in isolation.  I often say to my patients when they come in with pain somewhere – that for better or worse everything is connected.  Sometimes it’s wonderful we work that way, and sometimes it’s a pain in the you know what – it’d much easier if it was isolated.  However, since in fact everything IS connected, and sometimes (often) where you hurt isn’t where the problem is, the same is true with movement – the things we have to do daily, that allow us to be functional, are not isolated movements – they involve multiple muscles, coordination, joint mobility and stability and motor control.  Movements, even simple ones, are whole body affairs.  How well are you moving?

More on this topic soon!

heal faster. move better.