Sahrmann, Shirley

Dr. Shirley Sahrmann

Dr. Sahrmann is a retired Physical Therapist and Professor emeritis of Physical Therapy, Cell Biology and Physiology, and also of Neurology at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. She received her Bachelors degree in Physical therapy and her Masters and PhD in Neurobiology from Washington University in St. Louis. Shirley is the author of Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, which is a gSahrmannreat resource for clinicians. Shirley has also received many awards and honors during her career. She was named the Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association and received the Association’s John H.P. Maley Lecture and Mary McMillan Award, the highest honor of the association, Marion Williams Research Award, the Lucy Blair Service Award, the Kendall Practice award, and the Bowling-Erhard Orthopedic Clinical Practice Award from the Orthopaedic Section of the APTA. Dr. Sahrmann has also been honored with the Washington University’s Distinguished Faculty Award, the School of Medicine’s Excellence in Clinical Practice Award, as well as an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Indianapolis.

Dr. Sahrmann’s research interests are in development and validation of classification schemes for movement impairment syndromes as well as in exercise based interventions for these syndromes. Her books, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes and Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Cervical and Thoracic Spines and the Extremities, describe the syndromes and methods of treatment. She maintained an active clinical practice specializing in patients with musculoskeletal pain syndromes until her retirement in July 2012. Shirley has served on the APTA Board of Directors and as president of the Missouri Chapter. In addition to her numerous national and international presentations, Dr. Sahrmann has been a keynote speaker at the World Confederation of Physical Therapy, and at the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Danish national congresses.

Here’s why I have integrated Dr. Sahrmann’s MSB scheme into my practice:

Most Physicians have been taught assessment skills using the pathokinesiologic model.  With this model, the pathologic diagnosis is frequently not even associated with the actual diagnosed movement impairment.  Dr. Sahrmann is the first to categorize pain disorders logically into movement impairment categories.  Her muscle system balance (MSB) scheme can be utilized by the therapist to organize basic information into assessment categories that identify the factors that are contributing to the syndrome.  The name of the syndrome identifies the primary dysfunction, or the movement impairment, and directs treatment.  Clinicians must be confident they have the necessary information to treat the specific impairment rather than an ambiguous diagnostic label.  “This will undoubtedly create the opportunity for significant improvement, in terms of outcomes.” (Robert Stalker, MD, Dalhouse University Health Service, Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada).

Neither outcome effectiveness nor cost containment will permit the physical therapist to continue to use a trial-and-error approach to patient care.  Three main factors are the key to the future growth of the physical therapy profession:

1. Embracing and developing these assessment categories that direct treatment.

2. Understanding and managing movement and movement-related dysfunctions and articulating the associated pathophysiology.           

3. Meeting the demands for evidence-based practice by conducting clinical trials based on assessment categories that direct PT treatment and knowledge of the underlying clinical science.

(Sahrmann, 2002)