The world has gone virtual, thanks to our increasing reliance on telehealth services and the ongoing pandemic. However, this has also led to a more sedentary world for more people—increasing the need for your services as a physical therapist, personal trainer, or athletic trainer. Your clients or patients need help—and that means you’re doing a lot of functional movement assessments remotely today. And it’s not always easy.

Even the most skilled movement professionals can have a hard time assessing someone’s function and fitness on a computer screen. There are limitations to the technologies we use. However, when you approach your remote functional movement screens with Applied Functional Science®, you can reduce or eliminate some of these challenges.

What Is a Functional Movement Assessment?

For the team at Gray Institute®, the question is not “How do you best work with patients and clients remotely?” Instead, we ask, “How do you assess people remotely?”

It might sound like a subtle difference, but it is not.

With physical therapy and personal training comes the all-important opportunity to assess. Call it a functional movement assessment, test, evaluation, or screen, these observation-driven sessions evaluate a person’s movements and help identify opportunities to improve their function. We cannot help people live healthier, happier lives unless we identify the dysfunctions or limitations of their bodies that are causing pain and limitation.

Some functional movement screens are rigid, requiring everyone to perform the same movements, like deep squats, hurdle steps, trunk stability pushups, and active straight leg raises. However, in a clinical setting, these movements are rarely done in a vacuum—we don’t really move that way in real life. Applied Functional Science takes a different approach, acknowledging the unique differences between human bodies and considering each patient or client’s holistic needs and physiology.

Our bodies work in all three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal, and transverse. However, we don’t consciously think about these individual motions that our hips, spine, knees, or shoulders are doing. Instead, we see ourselves walking, lifting, bending, and twisting. And when we experience difficulties, we often blame the painful body part—be it the knee, shoulder, foot, or ankle.

However, we know that, thanks to our body’s Chain Reactions, the real problem often lies farther up or down the chain. That pain in your foot or ankle might really be due to hip dysfunction. Similarly, problems in the thoracic spine and hips can contribute to shoulder pain.

As a movement professional, you need to assess people’s movements in a strategic manner that incorporates familiar movements and movements that account for how all joints move in three planes of motion. You don’t want rigid exercises that don’t replicate real-world motion—they can’t provide you with meaningful insight. That’s why you need to get your patients and clients off the table and moving in all three planes of motion during your functional movement assessments. 

RELATED: 3 Reasons 3DMAPS Should Be Your Go-To Movement Screen

Using Applied Functional Science and 3DMAPS® in Virtual Movement Screens

How movement professionals assess their patients and clients remotely really shouldn’t be that much different in-person. It is interesting, however, how there is a gap. Some of it is a learning curve: building trust and rapport over video chat can seem different than in real life, and you need the right technology.

However, once you have the right-sized screen and clear instructions for your clients or patients to follow (like placing them against a plain wall and putting their phone or device on a sturdy, level table or tripod), many of the differences can disappear.

But for many movement professionals, gaps in their professional knowledge lead to inconsistent results and frustrated patients or clients. Before you spend hours unsuccessfully studying your recorded movement screens looking for clues, consider looking at them from an entirely different perspective.

3DMAPS: Assess Your Clients and Patients on All 3 Planes of Motion

Gray Institute knows that 3DMAPS (3D Movement Analysis & Performance System) is the solution to closing that gap, connecting better with patients and clients (whether virtually or in-person), and producing better outcomes.

With 3DMAPS, we believe that there is power in facilitating an assessment with no equipment, using Chain Reaction movements that tell us how the joints are moving in all three planes of motion (both for mobility and for stability), all while keeping the patient or client safe and successful. These unique features, the lack of equipment, Chain Reaction movements for both mobility and stability, and a safe facilitation, differentiate 3DMAPS from other protocol-driven movement assessments.

As if that wasn’t enough, 3DMAPS is much more engaging, encouraging, and empowering.

  • Engaging: We use relevant movements that your clients and patients perform in real life, so the assessment feels meaningful and intuitive.
  • Encouraging: We define “success” and “improvement” on a personalized level, focusing on each client or patient’s unique goals and needs.
  • Empowering: Patients and clients will feel a sense of improvement as they go through their assessments and prescribed movements.

RELATED: How Applied Functional Science Can Change Your PT Practice

What a Remote Movement Assessment Looks Like Using 3DMAPS

Using 3DMAPS, the movement professional essentially does the same thing in-person and virtually.

  • Use everyday movements (lunges, hand swings, foot reaches) to naturally warm-up the body, as well as allow the body to demonstrate its successes (not failures) in deciding where best to start with the individual.
  • As you demonstrate the movements, entering the assessment process with the individual, ask relevant questions while watching the “shape” of their body (for mobility) and the “quality” of their movement (for stability) to come up with a starting point on how best to help the individual.

With regards to the “shape” and “quality” of the movement, 3DMAPS covers all 66 motions of the body’s vital joints that show up in everyday movements (sports, tasks, activities). Instead of getting lost in the minutia of said motions, the movement professional looks at the shape of the body, comparing one side to the other within each Chain Reaction movement.

Here is a glimpse of the “shape” of the body for each Chain Reaction movement, while identifying and respecting the motions that go into each shape:

  • Anterior Chain Reaction: “C” Shape; Ankle Dorsiflexion, Knee Extension, Hip Extension, Lumbar Spine Extension, Thoracic Spine Extension, Cervical Spine Extension, and Shoulder Flexion.
  • Posterior Chain Reaction: “Ribbon” Shape; Ankle Plantar Flexion, Knee Flexion, Hip Flexion, Lumbar Spine Flexion, Thoracic Spine Flexion, Cervical Spine Flexion, and Shoulder Extension.
  • Same Side Lateral Chain Reaction: “C” Shape; Subtalar Inversion, Knee Abduction, Hip Abduction, Lumbar Spine Opposite Side Lateral Flexion, Thoracic Spine Opposite Side Lateral Flexion, Cervical Spine Opposite Side Lateral Flexion, and Shoulder Abduction and Adduction.
  • Opposite Side Lateral Chain Reaction: “C” Shape; Subtalar Eversion, Knee Adduction, Hip Adduction, Lumbar Spine Same Side Lateral Flexion, Thoracic Spine Same Side Lateral Flexion, Cervical Spine Same Side Lateral Flexion, and Shoulder Adduction and Abduction.
  • Same Side Rotational Chain Reaction: “Helix” Shape; Subtalar Abduction, Knee External Rotation, Hip External Rotation, Lumbar Spine Same Side Rotation, Thoracic Spine Same Side Rotation, Cervical Spine Same Side Rotation, and Shoulder Horizontal Abduction and Horizontal Adduction.
  • Opposite Side Rotational Chain Reaction: “Helix” Shape; Subtalar Adduction, Knee Internal Rotation, Hip Internal Rotation, Lumbar Spine Opposite Side Rotation, Thoracic Spine Opposite Side Rotation, Cervical Spine Opposite Side Rotation, and Shoulder Horizontal Adduction and Horizontal Abduction.

To learn more about this process, you can watch our corresponding vlog!

Gray Institute: Better Movement Screens Using Applied Functional Science

No matter if the individual is in front of the Movement Professional for rehabilitation, performance-enhancement, or prevention, 3DMAPS provides better connection with the patient or client and better outcomes (where and how to progress based on success).

For four decades, Gray Institute has championed functional movement based on the truths of our daily lives. Our methodology is based on scientific truth, not theory, and is used by movement professionals around the world to treat and train everyone from professional athletes on the world stage to student athletes competing at your local school.

If you’re ready to deepen your understanding of human movement based on truth, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can learn more about 3DMAPS and Gray Institute on our website, or you can reach out to our team to speak with someone directly.

We look forward to speaking with you!