By far one of the most underused applications of isokinetic dynamometers is the isometric strength test. Why? Because it’s the ideal way to assess strength for most of the patients walking into physical therapy clinics.
What’s the problem with manual muscle testing?
The standard, manual muscle test lacks objectivity. What one Physical Therapist might designate as a 4/5 may be considered a 5/5 by another clinician (and don’t get me started on the ± designation). Another major issue with the testing muscles manually is the difference between the muscles we’re assessing and the muscles we’re using to assess them. A 5/5 means the patient can hold against maximal resistance, but the maximal force one PT provides with their deltoid and triceps cannot match the strength of the quadriceps. This leads to the possibility of a strength deficit remaining hidden due to the testing “equipment”. A mechanical dynamometer eliminates these variables.
Testing for baseline
Whether the patient is a young adult with shoulder pain, an older adult with an arthritic knee, a stroke survivor, or an athlete with a subacute sprain/strain; the isometric test is useful for establishing baseline strength and identifying deficits. The isometric test is a fast and easy way to measure force output without over-stressing the patient’s injured tissues. It’s a precise, computerized muscle test that removes the margin of error from doing it manually. Furthermore, it’s a great test for patients unless they’re experiencing an acute injury or are immediately post-op.
Testing for progress
By testing patients throughout their rehab, PTs can demonstrate to physicians, insurance companies, and workers’ compensation case managers that patient progress is being made. Anytime you can showcase that your interventions are working is a major win! Progress testing can undeniably demonstrate that the patient is making progress and highlight remaining strength deficits that need continued care by a skilled PT. Whenever you can document and demonstrate the need for physical therapy, there will be more approved visits and more revenue for your clinic.
Testing for discharge planning
Strength testing is not limited to athletes for discharge planning. Many clinicians are under this false assumption, but that leads to oversight of many patients. By utilizing isometric testing at or near discharge, patients’ readiness for release from care can be better determined. Test results are also a great way to show patients they need to continue working by themselves after discharge to achieve their goals.
If you haven’t been using isometric testing in your clinic, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful applications of the isokinetic dynamometer. If you want to learn how to implement isometric testing into your practice, be sure to take CSMi’s virtual course: Isokinetics 101 Online. It has been approved for 8 CEUs for Athletic Trainers, Physical Therapists, and Physical Therapy Assistants. The course is self-paced and covers various testing and training interventions available on isokinetic machines.