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Selective Functional Movement Assessment

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Written By Samantha Gosper

SFMA, what is it and why do we love it?

No one enjoys pain. No one enjoys pain especially when it is felt while performing the simplest of tasks, like squatting to pet a dog or to pick up a bag of groceries. The sharp pain that pierces through your hip or your knee and causes you to wince is not just excruciating, it’s disruptive.

As the person who is injured, getting rid of the pain is your top priority. More often than not, pain medication or icing the area, is the go-to. But have you ever thought about taking a step back and thinking about what the root cause of the pain is instead of trying to mask it? This is where SFMA comes in.

The Selective Functional Movement Assessment, also known as SFMA, is a whole-body evaluation system designed to find the specific factors that are contributing to the issue that brought you to therapy. Low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, neck pain, and TMJ pain are all painful conditions that often result from tightness, weakness, and imbalances near the region that hurts. This phenomenon is called regional interdependence.

Regional Interdependence                       

People with:       Often have:                     

Low back pain   Stiff hips and upper back, with weak gluteals

Shoulder pain    Shoulder blade instability, with a tight upper back

Knee pain           Stiff ankles, with weak hips and core

Neck pain           Tight upper back, with a dysfunctional breathing pattern

TMJ Pain             Poor posture, and neck stiffness.

How Does it work?

So, there is this excellent system for finding the root cause of pain, great, but how exactly does it work?
Believe it or not, there is an algorithmic thought process to determine the root cause of someone’s problem. Greg Specht, of Specht Physical Therapy, is a SFMA Instructor. The algorithmic process he teaches establishes a roadmap of where the body is working, where it isn’t, and where it hurts.

There are various paths on this roadmap that a patient can go down:

  • Dysfunctional Painful
    • These are the areas that a person notices that hurt – essentially what the patient “thinks” is the problem and what they want fixed (i.e. low back pain)
  • Dysfunctional Non-painful
    • These are areas that don’t hurt but that are not working properly thereby placing stress and strain on the area that hurts (i.e. Tight hips that place strain on the lower back)
  • Functional Painful
    • These are areas that have normal mobility and stability, but they hurt – this is seen a lot with high level athletes – they have great mobility and stability but are in pain
  • Functional Non-painful
    • These are areas that are moving normally and don’t hurt.

As the therapist moves the patient down the road map with various body movements, they are getting closer and closer to deciphering the root cause of the patient’s pain. Once this is discovered, the therapist will design a treatment program for the patient that is customized to treat the specific problems that are found.

The Selective Functional Movement System is utilized by all therapists at Specht PT. Because Greg is an instructor, he is able to ensure that the physical therapists at his practice stay on the cutting-edge of physical therapy care.

Where others give up, Specht digs deeper. Where others only see your pain, Specht looks for the source. Where others see disability, Specht find potential for optimal function.

To book an appointment at Specht Physical Therapy, click here.