What is a functional capacity evaluation?

Have you recently experienced an injury or a chronic health condition that prevents you from working at your job? Your health can take a dive for many reasons, whether you have been in a motor vehicle accident or had some other sudden change in your condition. When the unexpected happens, one of your first priorities is probably receiving immediate treatment. Another priority might be your job. As you recover, it is important to determine when you can return to work. This is where functional capacity evaluations come in.

You may recognize the term “functional capacity evaluation” as something relating to physical therapy. However, you might not know exactly what it entails and how it can benefit you. A functional capacity evaluation, or FCE for short, is a comprehensive assessment of your physical condition. During the evaluation, a physical therapist works to evaluate a patient’s physical state and functional capabilities. By revealing your current capabilities, an FCE can help show whether you can work and reveal a path for forward progress.

How is a functional capacity evaluation administered?

The evaluation process typically involves several steps. In some cases, an FCE might be conducted over the course of several sessions. Because an FCE can play a pivotal role in determining your fitness for certain tasks, the process should take the time to ensure accuracy.


  • Interview — Before your evaluation, you will probably speak directly with your physical therapist. An initial interview is important for everyone involved. For your therapist, the interview helps gather essential information. This can include details from your medical history and preexisting conditions. Knowing the specific reason for your evaluation can also help your physical therapist. As a patient, you can use the interview as an opportunity to learn more details about the functional capacity evaluation. You can ask any questions you might have about the evaluation. You can also learn about potential physical therapy treatments afterward.

  • Examination — After the interview, the evaluation process can begin. This includes a thorough physical examination. The role of this examination is to assess factors such as strength, mobility and posture. This examination helps your physical therapist understand your baseline physical condition. In addition to the examination, an FCE also typically includes a series of functional tests. These will test how well you can participate in certain work activities. Each test can simulate real-life activities like lifting, reaching and bending. Your physical therapist can carefully observe and record the results of each test. These tests are designed to reveal any limitations, pain or difficulties you might experience. Understanding your limitations can help identify whether you can return to work.

  • Report — After the evaluations, tests and analysis, your physical therapist will develop a report. The final report is meant to summarize the results of your functional capacity evaluation. This can be helpful for you to better understand your health. The report can also be shared with other health care providers and your employer if necessary. In some cases, an FCE report can be essential for determining a workers’ compensation settlement. Following your report, your physical therapist can recommend a personalized treatment plan and help you set health goals. 

Benefits of a functional capacity evaluation


  • Tailored rehab plans — One major benefit of an FCE is the way it can inform future treatments. After your evaluation, your physical therapist can use the evaluation report as a basis for developing a personal rehab plan. Tailored PT treatment plans are designed to address specific weaknesses and include targeted exercises. By implementing treatments that meet your personal needs, your physical therapist can help accelerate your recovery.

  • Informed decisions — Recovering from an injury or illness? During this time, the prospect of returning to work can be daunting. It can be difficult to know when is the right time to return to certain activities. An FCE can equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your return-to-work timeline.

  • Measurement of progress — During the rehab process, tracking progress is crucial. An FCE can serve as an accurate benchmark of your condition at a certain point in time. This can help you and your therapist track your progress as your recovery continues. A data-driven approach to treatment helps ensure that treatment remains effective.

Receive a comprehensive functional capacity evaluation at Lattimore Physical Therapy

Ready to test your functional capacity? At Lattimore Physical Therapy, you can receive top-notch evaluations and PT treatments to make your recovery swift and complete. Doing things the Lattimore way means working hard to treat each patient with personalized care. Our team offers a range of PT methods to help ensure your success as you restore your health.

Contact our team today for more information about FCEs or to schedule an initial appointment.

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