Functional Movement

Functional Movement

In the health care and fitness industries, the words ‘functional’ and ‘function’ are used to describe many different things. With respect to WorkSafeBC, a functional assessment may involve lifting weighted boxes or climbing ladders. Practitioners who use modern taping techniques will refer to some of their approaches as ‘functional’.




of or having a special activity, purpose, or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates.


“There are important functional differences between left and right brain”

The brain as an example underscores the fact that the brain’s design lends itself to certain tasks and abilities. This can also be said of the entire musculoskeletal system. Every segment of your body has a natural ‘function’ which is dictated by its anatomical, physiological and neurological design.

In light of this, one view of ‘function’ is that our body has a natural ability to move in a certain way. When these abilities are altered by pathology, injury, compensations or pain, we change how we move, leading to inefficient patterns of movement. These inefficiencies will often lead to breakdowns in anatomical structures or a disruption of performance.

Here at Trailside Physio, our therapists take a function and functional assessment seriously. Ensuring that your body and limbs move in the most efficient manner helps people avoid further injury and assists in maintaining a high level of performance.

One method of assessing function is the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) as developed by the renowned physical therapist, Gray Cook. For example, if we accept that the ability to perform a toe touch is inherent to the human body, a physical therapist would delve into the reasons why a person could not do this.

The inability may be due to:

  • pain or inflammation
  • tightness, also known as hypo-mobility or restriction
  • weakness or instability
  • motor programming (think of the software your brain uses to move your body)

One or more of the above inabilities may be involved at any joint/segment or multiple joints/segments. With specific training, your therapist at Trailside Physio will not only get to the crux of what structure is generating the pain, but also what effect it has on normal movement, and how/if abnormal movement contributed to your pain.

After a detailed assessment treatments will be directed to restore normal and natural pain-free movement. Pain may be treated by modalities such as control of activity, ultrasound or electrical currents. Tightness may be addressed with massage, stretching or manual joint mobilizations. Weakness may be addressed by specifically prescribed exercises. Motor programming would involve education, coaching or specific exercises.

It is important to note that therapists must apply exercises that are relevant to the current level of ability for the segment involved and for the patient. An exercise that is too difficult will result in poor compliance, poor technique or further maladaptive compensations. An exercise that is too easy will likewise foster disinterest or simply be a waste of a patient’s time and money.

To find out if your movement patterns are functional and efficient, please feel free to book with a Trailside therapist.



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