Synergy Health Partners

Assess. Adapt. Achieve. Functional Capacity Evaluation for Success!

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a test that assesses an individual’s physical capabilities, limitations, and tolerances related to various job demands, such as lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, sitting, standing, walking, and other job-specific tasks. This evaluation can help ensure safe job placement, identify necessary workplace accommodations, and guide rehabilitation or treatment plans.

What Is A Functional Capacity Evaluation?

People typically undergo an FCE in several situations. One common scenario is when an individual needs to return to work after sustaining an injury or illness that has affected their physical abilities. The FCE helps determine if the employee can safely resume their original job duties or if accommodations or job modifications are required. Employers may also request an FCE as part of the pre-employment screening process, particularly for physically demanding jobs, to ensure that the candidate possesses the necessary physical capabilities to perform the essential functions of the job safely and effectively.

In cases involving disabilities or workers’ compensation claims, an FCE provides objective data to evaluate the extent of an individual’s functional limitations or disabilities. This evaluation can assist in determining eligibility for disability benefits, accommodations, or an appropriate level of compensation for work-related injuries or illnesses. Additionally, healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists or occupational therapists, may recommend an FCE to establish baseline functional levels and develop tailored rehabilitation or treatment plans.

How a Functional Capacity Evaluation is Conducted

Initial Assessment

The evaluator will begin by gathering relevant information about the individual, including their medical history, work demands, and any specific concerns or limitations. This helps in tailoring the evaluation to the individual’s needs.

Physical Examination

The evaluator will conduct a physical examination to assess strength, flexibility, range of motion, coordination, balance, and other relevant factors. This may involve performing simple exercises, measuring joint movements, and evaluating muscle strength.

Functional Tasks

The individual will be asked to perform various functional tasks that simulate work-related activities. These tasks may include lifting and carrying objects, pushing and pulling, walking, bending, reaching, and other movements specific to their job requirements.

Work Simulation

In some cases, the evaluator may create a simulated work environment to assess the individual’s ability to perform job-specific tasks. This may involve using equipment or tools commonly used in their work setting.

Measurements and Documentation

Throughout the evaluation, the evaluator will collect objective data, such as the weight lifted, the distance walked, or the time taken to complete specific tasks. They will also document observations regarding the individual’s effort, pain levels, and any limitations or difficulties encountered.

Functional Capacity Assessment

Based on the collected data and observations, the evaluator will analyze the individual’s functional capacity and compare it to the physical demands of their job or specific work tasks. This assessment helps determine their readiness to return to work, need for accommodations, or vocational planning.

Report and Recommendations

The evaluator will compile the findings into a detailed report, which includes the individual’s functional abilities, limitations, and recommendations. This report may be shared with healthcare providers, employers, insurance companies, or other relevant parties involved in the individual’s care.

How Long Does a FCE Take?

The duration of an FCE can vary, but they typically take several hours, spanning multiple sessions if necessary, to comprehensively assess an individual’s physical abilities and limitations through a series of standardized tests and job-specific simulations.

How is an Functional Capacity Evaluation Scored?

FCEs are typically scored using a combination of objective measurements and subjective observations made by the evaluator during the assessment process. Here are some common methods used to score and interpret FCE results:

Objective Measurements

  • Test results are compared against standardized norms or job-specific benchmarks for various physical abilities (e.g., lifting capacity, grip strength, range of motion).
  • Measurements from tools like dynamometers, grip meters, and functional capacity evaluation systems provide quantitative data on the individual’s performance.

Observational Scoring

  • The evaluator closely observes the individual’s body mechanics, movement patterns, and physiological responses during functional tasks.
  • Aspects such as posture, compensatory movements, and signs of discomfort or fatigue are scored using standardized rating scales or checklists.

Self-Reported Data

  • The individual’s self-reported levels of pain, perceived exertion, or functional limitations are considered and may be scored using rating scales or questionnaires.
  • Job-specific tasks:
  • For job-specific FCEs, the individual’s performance on simulated work tasks or actual job demands is evaluated against the essential functions and physical requirements of the job.

Consistency Evaluation

  • The evaluator assesses the consistency of the individual’s performance across various tests and tasks to identify any potential inconsistencies or non-credible effort.


The scores from these various components are then integrated and interpreted by the evaluator, who considers factors such as the individual’s medical history, job demands, and overall functional presentation. The evaluator typically provides a comprehensive report detailing the individual’s functional abilities, limitations, and recommendations for accommodations, job modifications, or further rehabilitation.

What Happens After a FCE?

After an FCE, the evaluator will prepare a detailed report that outlines the individual’s functional abilities, limitations, and tolerances. This report may include specific recommendations for accommodations, job modifications, or restrictions to ensure the individual’s safety and ability to perform essential job functions. If the evaluation was conducted for disability or workers’ compensation purposes, the report may provide insights into the individual’s functional capacity levels and potential eligibility for benefits or compensation.

The FCE report is typically shared with relevant parties, such as the individual’s healthcare provider, employer, insurance company, or legal representatives, depending on the reason for the evaluation. The healthcare provider can use the information to develop an appropriate treatment or rehabilitation plan, while employers can use it to determine reasonable accommodations or job modifications.