How is it different from “traditional” physical therapy?
Functional Manual Therapy®, developed by the Institute of Physical Art, is an integrative evaluation and treatment approach that optimizes function by improving total body mobility and strength/coordination. There are three main components that need to be evaluated and treated – mechanical deficits, neuromuscular and motor control capacity. What does that mean? Keep reading for a more in-depth explanation, but in short, efficient movement requires motion from your joints/soft tissues etc, but also the ability to control this motion. You can have symptoms if you are deficient in any these areas. Mechanical restrictions prevent you from moving efficiently which affects your ability to use your body correctly causing strain on different parts of the body, ultimately contributing to your symptoms. In order to achieve the best results, all three components need to be treated – you cannot function well if you do not have the ability to move, but you also need to move efficiently, activating the correct muscles at the right time.
Once explained, it doesn’t sound so complicated right? So why are there so few Certified Functional Manual Therapists (CFMTs)? The education and certification process is intense and long, usually taking at least two years to complete, which would be considered fast! There are seven classes that you have to take to be eligible to take the exam and most practitioners take each of those classes at least two to three times prior to sitting for the certification. Outside of the classes, there are hours and hours of learning movement analysis and practicing hands-on techniques as well as more hours spent learning theories and concepts. You develop a close relationship with others studying for CFMT since you spend more time with them than your own family!
So, what does this mean for you? Your evaluation will start with an overall postural assessment, regardless what your diagnosis is. Since we’ve had all this training in observation and movement analysis, we want to see where your body wants to be naturally! Looking at posture tells us a lot about what is happening within your body and what else may be going on potentially contributing to your condition. We look at different movements, just like traditional PTs, however we are much more specific about watching how things move, what order are things moving in, what muscles are being used and when, etc. This gives us insight into how you are using your body on a daily basis and what we may need to address to improve your symptoms, and better yet, reduce the chance of the symptom coming back. The more efficiently you use your body, the less likely you are to injure it. Once we have a good idea of what is happening with your body, we then assess specific joints, muscles and nerves, find ones that are not mobile that are likely contributing to your symptoms and begin to use our manual skills. Just like we stated in the beginning, we mobilize what does not move efficiently, strengthen you in that new range and then make it functional with your daily tasks or exercise. We do not have a “shoulder protocol,” or a “knee protocol” etc. Our treatments are specifically designed for your body so you can recover as quickly as possible.
With all this advanced training, what types of patients do we usually see? This is a great question. We can effectively treat anything from an ankle sprain or rotator cuff injury to more complex conditions like chronic low back pain, chronic regional pain syndrome and pelvic pain. However, like many CFMTs, we are out of network with insurance companies, meaning patients will be spending more money out of pocket up front (read more about why that is in our blog post). While we can very effectively treat any PT diagnosis, we often see people who have not gotten better with traditional PT and other therapies, those with chronic pain, and people with very complex medical histories. We also see people who just want to learn how to improve their overall well-being and prevent injury.
Traditional PT is not wrong by any means. Functional Manual Therapy ® is simply a specialty of physical therapy, requiring advanced training and more testing. For even more information or to find a local CFMT, check out the Institute of Physical Art’s website!