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Better Physical Therapy Results Start With Applied Functional Science

Updated: Feb 1

Do you remember being in math class as a child and wondering, "How does this apply to me in the real world?" The same question can be asked in physical therapy, as traditional practices don't always take into account how people are really moving in their daily lives.

Physical therapy clinics that use Applied Functional Science principles differ; they understand and focus on how the body actually moves rather than how it should move.

older man fishing

What is Applied Functional Science (AFS)?

AFS is the convergence of the physical, biological, and behavioral science worlds to treat the body using practical, context-based movements. AFS was developed by Dr. Gary Gray from the Gray Institute and has influenced the physical therapy realm for over 40 years now. AFS sees the body as a whole, not just comprised of different parts put together; that's why this practice treats the root cause of an issue and not just the symptoms.

What Makes Applied Functional Science Different?

AFS differs from the traditional approach by employing three different fields of science:


  • How the body moves in real time and space.


  • The study of the body and its processes.

Behavioral Science

  • The study of human behavior and its impacts.

For example, if treating a painful shoulder:

Traditional physical therapy:

  • Focus: what part of the shoulder is painful?

  • Evaluation: the shoulder.

  • Treatment: correct and strengthen the shoulder.

AFS approach:

  • Focus: what caused this shoulder pain?

  • Evaluation: the entire body, from the head to the toes.

  • Treatment: correct the underlying root issue that is causing the shoulder pain.

How We Utilize Applied Functional Science at Rehab United

We utilize Applied Functional Science as our foundation, but we add our unique twist to it with a more hands-on approach. The best way to describe our approach is that instead of using a microscopic, isolated view of the body, we attempt to take a three-dimensional panoramic view of the entire system to properly assess impairments and determine where the patient’s dysfunction is truly stemming from. Using our knowledge of anatomy, biology, physiology, physics, and biomechanics, we can effectively dissect functional movement patterns to determine how the patient’s impairments are leading to their symptoms and functional limitations. Watch Rehab United founders, Bryan and Sean Hill, share how AFS became the philosophy that fuels our employees’ and patients’ success.

body movements poster

Once we identify the impairments at fault, the physical therapist will develop an individualized plan of care with interventions, which include but are not limited to mobilizations, massage, therapeutic exercises, neuromuscular re-education, blood flow restriction, taping, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, and cupping, to improve the patient’s functional deficits effectively and efficiently with the end goal being to decrease their symptoms and improve their function.

We take pride in putting the fun into function by creating unique exercises that look and feel like what the patient has goals of returning to. We do our best to replicate the physical demands required on their body to complete daily tasks and functional activities with decreased pain and limitations.

Lastly and most importantly, we empower our patients through education to understand their bodies and to take control of their rehabilitation process by making themselves accountable to adhere to the plan of care and be compliant with their Home Exercise Program, so that together we can achieve THEIR functional goals.

Schedule the Care You Need!

If you're interested in how the principles of AFS can help you in your recovery journey, request an appointment, or call us at (206) 524-4977. Rehab United is committed to helping you get back to doing what you love by providing the utmost care and service, giving you the best experience possible.


Arturo Valle, PT, DPT, FAFS, CSCS, STMT-1, BFR-1, CCI, is a Physical Therapist, Clinic Director of Rehab United in Escondido, and Director of Rehab United’s Quality Assurance Program. As a graduate of USC’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, Dr. Valle has always emphasized the implementation of Evidence-Based Practice into all plans of care. Throughout his 12 years of experience, Dr. Valle has treated thousands of orthopedic-related and sports injuries and mentored countless Physical Therapists and Students of Physical Therapy.

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