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How to Measure Progress with Physical Therapy

How to Measure Progress with Physical Therapy 

Most people seek services from an orthopedic physical therapist because: (1) they have musculoskeletal pain, and/or (2) they cannot function as well as they need to because of their condition.

Physical therapists perform a comprehensive clinical examination in order to diagnose the patient’s condition and to establish an appropriate treatment plan. The examination consists of tests and measures designed to determine what the problem is, but many of these tests also serve as a measure of progress after the patient has begun treatment. Examples of these tests include:

  • Assessment of pain: the physical therapist may ask the patient to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10, 0 representing no pain and 10 representing pain that is intolerable
  • Impairment based measures, such as joint range of motion, muscle strength and muscle endurance
  • Performance-based measures, such as how far the patient can walk in 6 minutes at a comfortable pace?
  • Self-report function: a written tool that allows the patient to report how much difficulty they have with common functional tasks such as walking up or down stairs, lifting, carrying, etc.

We utilize a sophisticated, computer adapted system called FOTO at STAR to measure function. It not only scores the patient’s current level of function, but by comparing certain patient characteristics (age, other health conditions) to others with similar complaints, it projects the anticipated amount of functional change over time. For example, where 100 represents full function, a patient that scores 60 can expect to improve to a level of 85 or 90 in 7 treatment sessions. This helps the patient get a better idea of what to expect in the way of progress, and how long it should take.

It is very important that patients know what to expect with any healthcare service. At STAR Physical Therapy, we strive to provide the best care that we can!

Marcia Miller Spoto PT, DC, OCS







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