Home / Therapy / Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE)


What is FCE
A Functional Capacity Evaluation is a series of tests that an individual participates in to determine their level of physical performance and ability to perform a specific and/or defined work level based on job demands and/or the environment requirements.

The FCE process compares the individual’s health status, and body functions and structures to the demands of the job and the work environment. In essence, an FCE’s primary purpose is to evaluate a person’s ability to participate in work, although other instrumental activities of daily living that support work performance may also be evaluated.

Who’s Performing Exams
A skilled Occupational or Physical therapist will administer a series of tests that will help determine the level of performance, any specific limitations or physical assets, knowledge and performance levels of appropriate body mechanics as well as maximum/minimal levels of lifting capacity for specific tasks and the frequency in the ability to complete these activities in a defined work pattern during a normal (8-12 hours) work day.

PE vs. FCE
A functional capacity evaluation is a test that assesses a patients functional capacity to perform certain tasks that are usually related to job duties, such as lifting, climbing ladders, etc. Companies may seek pre-screening for employees in regards to specific job tasks prior to hiring them for a particular job to assess their level of performance and ability to safely perform a job based on their test force results.

Physician’s and workmen’s compensation insurance companies, obtain a Functional capacity evaluation, prior to returning an injured employee back to his full job duties after he/or she has completed traditional therapy/rehabilitation programs to assure that he/or she can participate fully and safely in their work tasks. This method can assist in transitioning a patient back to work who may not be ready to assume full force job tasks. These patients may participate in a program of work conditioning which helps an individual develop endurance, increased strength and decrease in pain. Some individuals may need to have the skilled therapist modify their lifting patterns or tool handles or ergonomic postures to maximize their job performance.

Work Conditioning
Work conditioning is a therapy program in which the patient participates on developing strength with specific goals in mind that address deficiencies in being able to return to work, which is based on the results of their FCE. Work conditioning is a 4 week program; the first week is 2 hours each day (5 days) and then the program advances to 4 hours a day for the next 3 weeks ( 15 days.)

What’s Physical Exam
A physical examination is the process that a medical doctor uses to investigate a “patient’s” health. Physical examinations may be performed both on symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. An asymptomatic patient may seek a medical “routine check-up” from their family doctor to assess their medical wellness. These tests can include the following:

    • Lab tests
    • Chest X-rays
    • Pulmonary testing
    • Audiograms
    • EKG
    • CAT scans
    • Heart Stress tests
    • Vascular age related tests
    • Urinalysis
    • Mammograms
    • Prostrate exams
FCE Test Determines
At the end of the testing, the health professional will be able to determine the following condition status and medical history:

  • Surgery and therapy history for the specific injury
  • Other unrelated past medical history
    1. Hypertension
    2. Low back condition
    3. Diabetes
    4. Shortness of breath
  • Other work experience
  • Critical demands of work to be tested
  • Department of labor strength classification:
    1. Sedentary work- involves exerting up to 10 lbs of force occasionally or a negligible amount of force frequently to lift, carry, push, pull or otherwise move objects including the human body.
    2. Light work- involves exerting up to 20 lbs of force occasionally, or up to 10 lbs of force frequently, or a negligible amount of force constantly to move objects. Light work includes sitting most of the time working arm controls, or working at a production pace, even though the weight may be negligible.
    3. Medium work- involves exerting 20-50 lbs of force occasionally, or 10-25 lbs of force frequently, or an amount greater than negligible and up to 1- lbs constantly to move objects.
    4. Heavy work- involves exerting 50-100 lbs of force occasionally, or 25-50 lbs of force frequently, or 10-20 lbs of force constantly to move objects
    5. Very heavy work- involves exerting in excess of 100 lbs of force occasionally, or in excess of 50 lbs of force frequently, or in excess of 20 lbs of force constantly to move objects.
FCE Test Include:
  • Upper and lower muscle testing (gross motor movements)
  • Range of motion measurements assessing flexibility of joints.
  • Repetitive reaching
  • Various levels of upper extremity reaching
  • Trunk rotation
  • Back strength
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Static/dynamic postural positions
  • Reaching at various levels
  • Climbing stairs/ladders/inclines/etc
  • Crawling/kneeling
  • Pushing/pulling
  • Fine motor manipulation
  • Grip and pinch strength
  • Twisting/bending/squatting/stooping
  • Lifting
Who takes FCE?
  • Injured employees
  • Someone involved in a catastrophic accident (i.e. motor vehicle accidents, etc)
  • Someone seeking vocational rehabilitation services
  • Employees whose companies now require a Functional Capacity Evaluation every 2 years.
Length of Test

To accurately assess functional abilities as required, the exam will take about 2-4 hrs. Whereas a physical examination may take from 30 min to 2 hours long.

What to Wear

Comfortable long pants, shirt and closed toe shoes (tennis shoes/work boots.

Preparing for FCE

ROC has a family doctor on site that can perform a pre-screening test.  This test can help to identify your capacity for passing a FCE exam. We will need the following information:

  • Previous medical history
  • Physical conditioning
  • Any previous injuries
  • Blood pressure/heart rate
  • Weight status
Failed FCE?

If your fail your first FCE test you may want to participate in a work conditioning program that will be specifically tailored for you to successfully pass on the areas that appeared to be your specific limitations or weaknesses.

Who Pays?

FCEs are usually paid for by workmen’s compensation insurance plans, federal, state and/or local agencies, self-insured plans, individuals themselves, employers or legal firms.

If you need to schedule an FCE this is what you will need:

  1. A doctor’s referral if you have been injured.
  2. If not being treated by a physician then a medical screening that clears you for lifting, walking, climbing, etc. Or you can receive the screening from our ROC physician, just ask the therapy coordinator when you call.
Obtain an Appointment Today or Call 713-520-1210
One of our representatives will be more than happy to schedule an appointment for you!