Functional Assessments

Patients often seek physical therapy due to an injury or other condition that limits their ability to move freely. Physical therapists perform functional assessments to gather objective information about the body’s limitations and how they impact a person’s capacity to perform activities of daily living. During such assessments, therapists use various tests to identify and evaluate the type and extent of those limitations as well as to set a baseline for measuring progress. Functional assessment tests and measures may range from basic to complex and may vary depending on the site of a patient’s injury. These include observation, video analysis of the patient walking or running on a treadmill, gait measurement, 3D motion capture, force plate testing to measure joint stress and balance, and biomechanical analysis. While some tests are given in a performance-based format, others are delivered in a patient-centric format—that is, the patient completes questionnaires and rates his or her own perceived functional abilities. Therapists then use the results of these tests to create an individualized treatment plan and home exercise program. The therapist may perform functional assessment tests throughout the patient’s plan of care to ensure that he or she is progressing toward his or her therapy goals at the appropriate pace.