The Movement System: Don't Miss the Boat
By Sue Whitney, PT, DPT, ATC, PhD, FAPTA, board-certified neurologic clinical specialist
In many ways, those of us in the physical therapy profession are like the crew on a ship—a collection of individuals with many different areas of expertise, all of whom are important for keeping the ship operational and moving forward.
You could think of other health professions in the same way—each a crew member of a ship that sails as part of the health care fleet. And to be sure, we have a lot in common with other professions because we sail in the same waters.
But we also have a distinctive set of knowledge, skills, and tools that we use to optimize human movement, promote health and wellness, mitigate the progression of impairments, and to prevent additional disability. Our ship makes it possible to accomplish that goal, and being a crew member makes it easier for us to explain our unique contribution to ourselves and others.
Our ship keeps us moving forward together as we explore new horizons in practice, education, and research. But what is our ship exactly?
I say we're all crew on the SS Movement System. And now it's time to set sail. The Movement System is ready to move, and we need all hands on deck.
A quick history
Hopefully, the Movement System is a familiar term by now. But just in case, here's a little background.
In June 2013, our House of Delegates (House) adopted the following new vision for our profession: "Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience."
Along with this vision statement, the House adopted guiding principles to articulate how the profession and society will look when the vision is achieved. The first guiding principle, "identity," states the following:
"The physical therapy profession will define and promote the movement system as the foundation for optimizing movement to improve the health of society. Recognition and validation of the movement system is essential to understand the structure, function, and potential of the human body. The physical therapist will be responsible for evaluating and managing an individual's movement system across the lifespan to promote optimal development; diagnose impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions; and provide interventions targeted at preventing or ameliorating activity limitations and participation restrictions. The movement system is the core of physical therapist practice, education, and research."
In response to the House action, an APTA Board of Directors (Board) work group developed a 2-part definition of the movement system that was reviewed, modified, and approved by the Board.
The first part of the definition succinctly describes the movement system.
"The movement system is the term used to represent the collection of systems (cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine, integumentary, nervous, and musculoskeletal) that interact to move the body or its component parts."
The second part of the definition describes the relationship of the movement system to physical therapist practice.
"Human movement is a complex behavior within a specific context.
- Physical therapists provide a unique perspective on purposeful, precise, and efficient movement across the lifespan based upon the synthesis of their distinctive knowledge of the movement system and expertise in mobility and locomotion.
- Physical therapists examine and evaluate the movement system (including diagnosis and prognosis) to provide a customized and integrated plan of care to achieve the individual's goal-directed outcomes.
- Physical therapists maximize an individual's ability to engage with and respond to his or her environment using movement-related interventions to optimize functional capacity and performance."
With a definition in place, the Board next created a Movement System Task Force to begin implementing an action plan recommended by the work group to [do what]. The Movement System Task Force first convened the Movement System Summit in December 2016. At the summit, the action plan was reviewed, revised, and adopted for implementation. Since that time, information about the movement system has been presented in many sessions at national meetings and in APTA publications.
Important next steps—with your help needed
But now we've reached a critical juncture—and we need your contribution.
In the past year, 2 sub-groups of the Movement System Task Force began to address 2 specific items from the action plan: drafting a process for developing movement system diagnoses, and developing a movement system screen. These important documents are now ready for your input.
Here's what we're asking: review 2 draft movement system templates and provide your feedback by June 1. The instructions for each one, though slightly different, are easy to follow.
Movement System Diagnosis Template
Step 1: Open the online draft diagnosis template and fill in the fields to submit an example of a movement system diagnosis (examples provided within the draft template): Online Draft Movement System Diagnosis Template.
Provide feedback about the draft movement system diagnosis template.
Movement Screen Template
Step 1: Download the movement screen, a tool designed to detect movement impairments observed during functional tasks/activities that will help therapists decide which additional tests and measures to include in the patient and client examination: Draft Movement System Screen Template (.pdf). (You are not expected to fill out and submit this template.)
Provide feedback about the draft movement screen template.
Your input will help shape the future of the movement system as it becomes more widely applied across the profession.
So please, come aboard, and together let's move full steam ahead.
Sue Whitney chairs the APTA Movement System Task Force
Planning on attending the NEXT Conference and Exposition June 12-15? Be sure to check out the special Movement System presentation track.