Functional Movement Screening for Pain-free Exercise
By Corey Howard
Many people who want to improve their strength and flexibility or improve their game choose to work with a personal trainer. Maybe you are one of them or perhaps you have patients who are. But when was the last time a personal trainer ran you through a movement screen, scored you, and found your weak points to determine what exercises you should or shouldn’t be doing? Has your trainer looked at your score to prescribe corrective drills that will make you more resilient? Believe it or not, such a screening does exist.
Screening is an integral part of maintaining a healthy body. Every physician knows that regular screening for things like cholesterol levels, certain cancers, and vision can help find problems early, potentially heading off more serious issues later on. Functional Movement Screening is designed to do much the same thing.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend four days with Physical Therapist Grey Cook, one of the founders and creators of Functional Movement Screening. I learned that early on in his career, Cook discovered a problem endemic to both physical therapy and personal training.
In an effort to address a particular muscle that might be causing pain, a physical therapist will often fail to look at the entire movement pattern. Similarly, personal trainers may try to help clients strengthen muscle groups, rather than addressing movements. For example, if a person’s knee is collapsing inward during a squat, a physical therapist may say the glute needs to be strengthened to create more stability in the hip. A personal trainer might put the client on a leg extension machine to strengthen the quads.
In this case, neither has looked at the client’s ankle, which is tight and lacks the mobility to allow the leg to properly track over the foot. In that case ,it’s a mobility issue, not a stability or strength issue.
Sticking with this example, imagine if the client is a runner. By following the advice of the trainer and therapist, the client has created more stability in a hip that didn’t require it, and a stronger quad in a knee that is already under a tremendous amount of pressure. That person is then sent out to run on a foot that doesn’t flex like it needs to for the safest most efficient performance. If six times one’s body weight is the amount of pressure that a leg absorbs every time the foot plants during a run, there is a good chance that this person is going to eventually meet an orthopedic surgeon. A Functional Movement Screen (FMS) would likely have detected the ankle issue and allowed them to avoid that scenario.
Grey Cook’s Functional Movement Screen includes seven basic human movement patterns that assess the risk for injury. All seven movements were created from patterns established in childhood. As we age and people start telling us how to run or move, we humans tend to unconsciously alter our intrinsic patterns.
So imagine if you or your patient went in for a session with a trainer and received a screening, followed by a workout specifically created to help lower the risk of injury. Just as it makes sense to check the cholesterol and the vision regularly, movement scoring makes practical sense. Most of us would not walk around complaining of chest pain or continually walk into walls because we cannot see them. Yet many fitness-minded people unnecessary continue to run with knee pain or bench press with shoulder pain. Getting an FMS done can make them more resilient.