Sharpening your Skillset for Better Patient Outcomes

By Lori Diamos, PT, MS, 3DMAPS, CAFS, FAFS

As a physical therapist for more than 20 years, I’ve been privileged to work with and be mentored by greatness on more than a few occasions. As a new grad, I had a phenomenal physical therapist as a mentor. He suggested I take a course called Chain Reaction, the Study of Applied Functional Science. This coursework became the foundation of my career as a physical therapist.

The human body is amazing and complex, in college we learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and biomechanics. But for simplicity’s sake, we often break it down joint by joint making the information easier to digest. The chain reaction coursework reinforces the concept that each joint is connected and that what happens at one level of the body can influence movement and function both above and below a particular joint. Although each joint often has a directional preference it prefers to live and work in, chain reaction reminds us that every joint is actually very dynamic, three-dimensional, has to react efficiently and effectively to gravity, ground reaction forces, body mass and momentum to function properly. For me, the chain reaction course was a great reminder to always look at the big picture and the whole person when dissecting someone’s pain or dysfunction. This has enabled an efficient path to the root cause of a patient’s problem.

It took several years for me to discover additional Gray Institute courses after my first exposure to Chain Reaction, but I wish I had found them sooner because it truly changed the way I assessed and treated patients. The next Gray Institute course I discovered was 3-Dimensional Movement Analysis and Performance System (3D MAPS). 3DMAPS launched my patient care from good to great. Through a simple and systematized series of lunges, reaches and balance activities in six different directions, also known as transformational zones, 3D MAPS allows a therapist to assess functional mobility, stability and asymmetries at all the joints from head to toe quickly, efficiently and effectively. This will help the clinician better understand why pain, dysfunction, or risk of injury with activity may be present so that an appropriate treatment or program can be designed for each person’s individual needs. It does not require any extra tools or equipment and can be performed anywhere easily – in the clinic, on the field, at a fitness facility or in the community! Assessment using 3DMAPS yields very meaningful information allowing for more useful and successful treatment design.

My next step after 3DMAPS certification was pursuing a certification in Applied Functional Science (CAFS). Traditional therapy tends to place focus locally on the “part” that hurts, but a CAFS therapist knows to look globally with a more encompassing, whole person approach. Where 3DMAPS will identify global locations where the body is moving or stabilizing less optimally, CAFS will guide functional treatment or program design locally to the problem area and will then reassess the global function of an individual’s body. Building from the concepts in chain reaction and 3DMAPS, applied functional science is a melding of the physical (gravity, ground reaction forces, body mass and momentum), biological (bones, joints, nerves, muscle, 3D movement, and transformational zones), and behavioral sciences (mind, spirit, fun, encouragement, confidence, and patient centered goals) to create a customized approach specific to a patient’s wants, needs and limitations to optimize their daily function.

Both 3DMAPS and CAFS are conveniently offered online or in live weekend courses, and Athletico has offered both conveniently packaged and exceedingly affordable in an applied functional science cohort. These certifications have made a significant difference in my functional and individualized approach to patient evaluation and treatment. More importantly, my patients have fun and excellent outcomes. I would like to encourage more clinicians to explore these offerings, because the content is so wonderful and immediately applicable to patient care. If you want to improve your functional outcomes and help keep your patients moving safely and effectively for a lifetime, consider signing up for the applied functional science cohort!

Feedback from the Field

“Going through the applied functional science cohort in 2017 transformed the way I prescribed exercise. I thought I was doing a good job with my post-op ACLs before in getting them safely back onto the field, but CAFS made their exercise program more fun, functional, making them even less at risk for re-injury.” – Anne B., Manager of Clinical Programs

“The thought process and subsequent methodology behind Applied Functional Science is an excellent way to look at your patients, from adolescent athletes to the elderly population, and assess global, functional movement patterns. Looking at patients in this way allows clinicians to better see how seemingly remote areas of movement dysfunction contribute to a patient’s pain.” – Carson L., Physical Therapist

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