The human movement system: Our professional identity

Shirley A. Sahrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The 2013 House of Delegates of the American Physical Therapy Association adopted a vision statement that addresses the role of physical therapy in transforming society through optimizing movement. The accompanying guidelines address the movement system as key to achieving this vision. The profession has incorporated movement in position statements and documents since the early 1980s, but movement as a physiological system has not been addressed. Clearly, those health care professions identified with a system of the body are more easily recognized for their expertise and role in preventing, diagnosing, and treating dysfunctions of the system than health professions identified with intervention but not a system. This perspective article provides a brief history of how leaders in the profession have advocated for clear identification of a body of knowledge. The reasons are discussed for why movement can be considered a physiological system, as are the advantages of promoting the system rather than just movement. In many ways, a focus on movement is more restrictive than incorporating the concept of the movement system. Promotion of the movement system also provides a logical context for the diagnoses made by physical therapists. In addition, there is growing evidence, particularly in relation to musculo-skeletal conditions, that the focus is enlarging from pathoanatomy to pathokinesiol-ogy, further emphasizing the timeliness of promoting the role of movement as a system. Discussion also addresses musculoskeletal conditions as lifestyle issues in the same way that general health has been demonstrated to be clearly related to lifestyle. The suggestion is made that the profession should be addressing kinesiopathologic conditions and not just pathokinesiologic conditions, as would be in keeping with the physical therapist's role in prevention and as a life-span practitioner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1034-1042
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2014


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