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Functional Mobility and Balance Outcome Measurements

Tracking Progress in Physical Therapy

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Updated January 02, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Outcome measurements are simple tests and measures used by physical therapists to measure your mobility and track your progress during rehabilitation. They can be used to help set goals, to make prognoses, and to direct physical therapy treatments.

Outcome measures can also help quantify impairments that may be difficult to measure in physical therapy. For example, if you have shoulder pain, your physical therapist can use a goniometer to accurately measure your joint range of motion. But measuring something abstract like functional mobility can be more difficult. Outcome measurement tools help your physical therapist accurately measure things like balance and mobility, so progress can be easily tracked during your physical therapy program.

There are many functional mobility and balance outcome measurements that your physical therapist can choose to use. Some of the more popular outcome assessment tools are listed below.

1. The Timed Up and Go Test

The Timed Up and Go Test, also known as the TUG, is a simple test that measures your safety during functional mobility. It's simple to measure in the clinic, and you may also be able to perform the TUG with a friend or family member at home.

2. The Functional Reach Test

Functional reach is the maximum distance that a person can reach while standing without losing her balance. The Functional Reach Test is a simple measure of standing balance while reaching. It can be performed in the physical therapy clinic or at home, but caution must be used since it may cause you to lose your balance when you perform the test.

3. The Six Minute Walk Test

The Six Minute Walk Test is an outcome measure used to quantify your basic exercise capacity and functional mobility. It can be used for people with various conditions, including cardiac problems, Parkinson's disease, and after orthopedic procedures like a total hip replacement.

The test is simply a measurement of the total distance that you can walk in six minutes. You're allowed to rest as needed during the test. You may also use your normal assistive device during the test, but you're not allowed to receive assistance from other people during the Six Minute Walk Test.

4. The Tinetti Balance and Gait Evaluation

The Tinetti Balance and Gait Evaluation, or the Tinetti for short, is a two-part balance and mobility test. The test requires that your physical therapist watch you as you perform normal seated and standing balance activities.

The balance portion of the Tinetti has nine items that your physical therapist scores, and the gait portion of the test has eight scored items. The balance and gait scores are added to obtain an overall score on the Tinetti, the maximum of which is 28. A score below 19 indicates that you're at an increased risk for falling.

5. The Berg Balance Scale

The Berg Functional Balance Scale is an outcome measurement tool that's used to assess your risk of falling. It consists of 14 functional tasks involving sitting, transferring, and standing balance activities. Each task is graded on a scale of 1 to 4, with 56 being the highest total score on the Berg Balance Scale.

Scores on the Berg Balance Scale can be used to predict the likelihood of falling. A score less than 45 out of 56 indicates that you're at an increased risk for falling.

Outcome measurement tools are important for your physical therapist's ability to quantify your functional mobility and balance. Some tools are easy to use and can be performed at home, while others require the skilled assessment of your physical therapist. Be sure to speak with your doctor and physical therapist to see which outcome measurement assessment is right for you and your specific condition.

Source: Physical Therapist's Clinical Companion. (2000). Springhouse, PA. Springhouse.

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