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Movement Tests: What They Are and Why They Are Helpful

Updated: Apr 17



Pain is just as normal to life as the wind blowing and the sun setting. We have all felt it in our lifetime. We stub our toe against a door, we get a papercut flipping pages in a book, or we feel tight and sore after a long workout. However, as common as pain is, it is a complicated mechanism. Thousands of neurons fire to send the message of pain to our brain, the alarm system of our bodies. When it comes to pain with athletes, we are quick to blame it on the tissues and structures around the area of pain. But more often than not, the source of the pain isn’t local. Instead, the pain is a manifestation of another issue elsewhere in the body. So, how can we find this issue so that we can address it and decrease pain during performance?




A great place to start is with a set of movements designed to look at the function of joints and muscles across the body. By assessing the mobility and stability of the entire kinetic chain instead of focusing on local structures, we can not only effectively treat the areas of dysfunction but also prevent future issues. One resource for an effective and comprehensive movement assessment is the top tier movements of Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). This test is specifically designed for athletes already in pain and effectively targets dysfunctional movement patterns. The top tier exam consists of the following tests:


Cervical Flexion

Cervical Extension

Cervical Rotation

Upper Extremity Pattern 1

Upper Extremity Pattern 2

Multi-Segmental Flexion

Multi-Segmental Extension

Multi-Segmental Rotation

Single-Leg Stance

Functional Squat



Using the top tier exam, we can better understand where the underlying issue is and how to address it. For example, if an athlete has knee pain while squatting goes through the exam, he may have issues with the single leg stance and functional squat. A keen eye can see that if the person cannot stand in a single-leg stance, ankle mobility and foot stability may be the issue. After treatment focusing on these key issues, the athlete’s knee pain is resolved! This is just one example of a multitude of musculoskeletal issues that can be resolved with the help of these tests.




Do you have pain during performance and can’t seem to find a way to fix it? Maybe you haven’t found the root of the problem! Our professionals at Circle City Motion can help with the use of these movement tests and more!



Using the selective functional movement assessment and regional interdependence theory to guide treatment of an athlete with back pain: a case report. Goshtigian GR and Swanson BT. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 11(4): 575-95. 2016.

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