Functional Reach Test

Use the Functional Reach Test to assess your patient's balance, especially if they are elderly, to determine their risk of falling and what you can do about it through your care plan!

Karina Jimenea
Karina Jimenea
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What is a Functional Reach Test?

is an excellent physical therapy tool therapists mainly implement for their geriatric patients/clients! It is used to assess if they can maintain their balance while reaching for something and determine if they have a high, moderate, or low risk of falling based on the results.

The result of a fall, especially for the elderly, could have grave physical consequences. It may also affect the individual mentally and emotionally, as impacted mobility can lead to frustration and even depression.

We’re sure you want what’s best for your geriatric patient and that you’d like them to be as spritely as possible, so implementing this tool should help you gauge your elderly client and determine what’s best for them moving forward!

Printable Functional Reach Test

Download this Functional Reach Test and assess your client’s balance.

How to use this Functional Reach Test:

The Functional Reach Test is easy to administer. Of course, on the part of your patient, it may be difficult, but that’s exactly what you’re going to assess.

Before you administer this test to them, make sure you have the following:

  • A wall space (at least three feet of wall space should suffice)
  • A yardstick to measure reach distance
  • Tape or velcro to secure the yardstick on the wall as well as mark the standing point of your patient
  • Someone to stand near the patient in case they show signs of falling while doing the test

Once you have these ready, it’s time to do the following:

Step 1: Have your patient stand behind the standing baseline.

After all the necessary tools are ready, the first thing you need to do is have your geriatric patient stand behind the standing baseline. They should be standing alongside the wall, with their arm close to the wall at 90 shoulder flexion, and having them close their fist.

Step 2: Start the first trial!

The Functional Test has three trials, the first being a demonstration. Here’s how it’s supposed to go:

  • You’ll first measure the starting position of your client, specifically the starting position of the third metacarpal head on the yardstick
  • Once you measure that, instruct your patient to reach as far as they can without moving their feet
  • Record their reach, a.k.a the third metacarpal head on the yardstick. When recording the reach, keep in mind that you’re recording in inches
  • IMPORTANT: Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll be calculating the reach, and it’ll be based on the difference between the starting position and the end position
  • Have your patient rest. At least 15 seconds should be good, but of course, take into consideration how they’re feeling and extend the break if necessary

Step 3: Repeat the trial two more times!

The first test is mainly for demonstration purposes. The second and third tests are the ones you’re going to record, but you may also include the first test result for your final score if you wish.

Just remember to give your client breaks in between each trial!

Step 4: Calculate the averages!

Once you have the results of the second and third trials (again, you can count the first one if you wish), calculate the average!

Just to give you an idea, here are the average reaches for both men and women of specific age groups:

  • 20-40 years old: 16.73 inches for men, 14.64 inches for women
  • 41-69 years old: 14.98 inches for men, 13.81 inches for women
  • 70-87 years old: 13.16 inches for men, 10.47 inches for women

Now, here’s how you’re going to interpret the average score:

  • If they get an average score of 6 or below inches, they have a high risk of falling
  • If their score is 7-10 inches, they have a moderate risk of falling
  • Last, if they score an average above 10, they have a low risk of falling

Once you’ve calculated the average, you can use that to help determine parts of the care plan for your patient to prevent them from falling.

Functional Reach Test Example (Sample):

Here is a filled-out Functional Reach Test example to help show you what the template may look like when completed.

Download this Functional Reach Test Example (Sample) here:

Functional Reach Test Example (Sample):

When would you typically use a Functional Reach Test?

Suppose the geriatric patient/client you are caring for can still stand and walk but has already started showing signs of deteriorating mobility. In that case, it’s best to administer this assessment as soon as possible.

This is so you can prevent them from getting into situations where they risk falling.

You may also re-administer this test to gauge mobility and check for improvements or worsened conditions. This should help you make the necessary adjustments to the care plan and ensure your client’s condition is appropriately treated.

Who can use this printable Functional Reach Test?

Physical therapists who focus on geriatric patients can use the Functional Reach Test for their practice. While this was designed to assess an older person’s risk of falling, it doesn’t mean it’s exclusively for them. The Functional Reach Test can also be effectively used for younger patients experiencing mobility issues.

Additionally, healthcare practitioners who aren't physical therapists may also gain benefits from using this Functional Reach Test. Provided you are treating a client whose mobility you want to assess, then this resource will be highly advantageous. This could include general practitioners, nurses, or even chiropractors.

What are the benefits of using the Functional Reach Test?

Aside from being helpful to physical therapists, your patient might find this beneficial because they can know their limits based on the current state of their mobility. They will know what to avoid and what needs work to get better, what can’t be changed, and how to adjust based on what can’t be changed.

Essentially, this Functional Reach Test will allow physical therapists and other healthcare practitioners to more accurately design a treatment plan. This plan will contain intervention strategies that will prevent the client from experiencing adverse situations that could put their health in an even more vulnerable place.

Although this assessment is designed to be completed by a qualified practitioner, it provides a good opportunity for the client and the physician to collaborate together to develop an effective and appropriate treatment plan.

Why use Carepatron for physical therapy software?

Here at Carepatron, we care about helping healthcare practitioners improve productivity and efficiency, especially when streamlining their clinical documentation. By taking advantage of our easy-to-navigate EHR system, you’ll gain access to various physical therapy assessments, such as the Functional Reach Test! The Functional Reach Test will help you gauge your patient quickly and efficiently, given how easy it is to administer.

You can even store this and other assessments in a HIPAA-compliant manner and secure them by setting up who can access these documents besides you.

Not only are our physical therapy software and assessments intuitive, but they’re also easily accessible! Imagine doing a house call because your patient doesn’t have the strength to travel to your clinic, but they have the strength to do the test. You don’t need to print out a sheet to bring. You can access the Functional Reach Test assessment on your laptop or phone!

Physical Therapy Software?
Is it safe to take this test, given that you’re evaluating someone with (potential) mobility issues?
Is it safe to take this test, given that you’re evaluating someone with (potential) mobility issues?

Commonly asked questions

Is it safe to take this test, given that you’re evaluating someone with (potential) mobility issues?

Yes, the physical therapists caring for the patient should be able to make sure that the patient doesn’t fall while doing the trials. They should also be able to gauge if doing the test is something the patient can do.

What if the patient can’t stand? Can the Functional Reach Test still be applied?

Yes. The Functional Reach Test has a modified version that caters to sitting patients. You can still fall even while sitting down, so if the patient can’t stand, they can opt for the modified test.

Are the results that you get from this test reliable?

Yes. The Functional Reach Test is not only easy to do, but it’s reliable and valid because you’re working with numbers. You’re looking at how far they can extend their reach and calculate the average based on the three trials. There are assigned designations for reach ranges to assess the risk of falling.

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