How a Functional Movement Screen Gets You Ready for Exercise

As the weather warms up, you’re probably getting back outside and getting more active. Whether you’re an athlete or looking to start a workout program, ensuring your body is ready to keep up with you can prevent injuries.

This is where your health care team can come in. A functional movement screen (FMS) evaluates basic bodily movements to measure mobility and stability and predict the likelihood of injuries from your chosen activity.

How Can a Functional Movement Screen Help Me?

Have you ever joined a gym and started doing circuit training on your own or with a trainer? Have you noticed your shoulder or your back started to hurt around the first or second week? Maybe you want to start working out for beginners with a couch to 5k program, but when you get out and move, your hip aches. Or maybe over the winter you didn’t stick to your running regimen quite as closely as you hoped and the 5-mile runs you’re trying to do now don’t feel that great.

No matter your fitness level, a functional movement screen helps you prepare for any workout or sport and avoid pain.

“The FMS is a seven-point screen that looks at a person’s mobility and stability as it relates to everyday activities,” said Mike Muldoon, MS, PT, Rehabilitation Site Manager at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals. Muldoon has been certified to perform FMS for 10 years. “Based on the results, we help you optimize your movement pattern.”

What Happens During the Screen?

The FMS can be performed by a doctor, physical therapist, personal trainer, chiropractor or other health or fitness professional, as long as they’re certified. The screen will guide you through a series of exercises that evaluate whether you have similar balance or strength on both sides of your body or whether there’s asymmetry that may cause you problems.

You’re then given a score, which serves as a baseline. Muldoon said a score under 14 signals that someone is at higher risk of an injury. For example, Muldoon explained, if someone has a tight hip flexor on one side, that could lead to back pain on that side. Asymmetrical or dysfunctional movement patterns in running or squatting can lead to pain or injury during those activities.

What Do You Do After the Screen?

Based on your score and areas needing improvement, you’ll receive corrective exercises to perform for a few weeks and then return to reevaluate your movements. At Lahey, you receive access to a portal with videos of the workouts that you can follow along at home.

You may also receive guidance on working out for beginners if you’re looking to start a new exercise program. The goal is to help you prepare for sports or daily activities without getting hurt.

How Often Should You Get Screened?

The FMS offers you a baseline, which can be improved. If you have a lower score, you may want to complete the corrective exercises and return for a follow-up screen before beginning a workout program. This can ensure you’re prepared to take on more intense exercises.

“It’s good for most people to get screened before hopping into an exercise program,” Muldoon said. “This way we’re able to identify things that might put you at risk of injury. For beginners, they may not be as able to adapt to injury and risk giving up on exercise altogether.”

Take stock of your fitness and movement levels and consider whether you may benefit from learning more about your movement patterns before you take on the next challenge, and check out this video about FMS to understand whether or not you’re ready to hit the gym.


*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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