Wellesley: (509) 448-9358
29th & Grand: (509) 309-3789
Deer Park: (509) 276-2005
Wandermere: (509) 465-2139

Physical Capacity Evaluation

Purpose:  What can the person SAFELY perform in terms of function on a daily basis?

A physical capacity evaluation takes several hours, and consists of a head to toe standardized test aimed at determining the person’s ability to perform functional tasks on a daily basis as well as make a determination about consistency and reliability of the patient’s effort.  PCE can be an important factor in determining a patient’s ability to return to a job of injury, determine if the patient has the ability to perform tasks associated with a new occupation, or define a patient’s level of functional disability.

History current and past

  • Surgical procedures – spinal fusion, rotator cuff repair, knee scope, etc.
  • Major illness-diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. 

Physical Examination

  • ROM of all major joints
  • Muscle testing of all major muscle groups
  • Lifting: floor to waist, waist to shoulder, shoulder to overhead
  • Push/Pull: with electronic dynamometer
  • Carry 50 feet: front and both sides
  • Grip/Pinch
  • 30 minute treadmill walking test
  • Sitting 30 minutes during paperwork
  • Standing throughout test
  • Fine motor: Purdue Peg Board
  • Positional Tolerance
    • Squatting
    • Kneeling
    • Crawling
    • Stairs
    • Bending/stooping

PCE: Reliability

  • Multiple average trials
  • Wadell’s tests-Non-organic symptoms at the low back
  • Consistency between similar tests

Physical Demand Levels


  • Occasionally lifting up to 10  pounds
  • Sitting most of the time, but may involve standing and walking for brief periods of time

Light Work

  • Occasionally lifting up to 20 pounds
  • Frequently lifting up to 10 pounds
  • Involves significant periods of sitting, standing, and walking
  • May require push/pull and foot/hand controls

Medium Work

  • Occasionally lifting up to 50 pounds
  • Frequently lifting 10-25 pounds
  • Standing and walking frequently/constantly

Heavy Work

  • Occasionally lifting up to 75 pounds
  • Frequently lifting 50 pounds
  • Constantly lifting 10-20 pounds
  • May involve awkward positions such as kneeling/crawling/bending etc.


  • Will physical therapy likely improve the patient’s function to the point where they are able to perform a higher level of physical demand?
  • What treatments have the patient had in the past?
  • Will the patient be compliant with treatment?
  • Does this client need to be referred to another healthcare professional
    • Surgical
    • Dietician
    • Primary Care

If appropriate for physical therapy

  • Measurable goals
  • Timeline for treatment
  • Documented progress
  • Initial evaluation
  • Monthly progress notes
  • Discharge note

Example of treatment recommendation

  • Pt will be seen 2x/week for 6 weeks
  • Pt will be able to walk at 3.0 mph for 30 minutes within 6 weeks
  • Pt will be able to lift 50# floor to waist without pain or substitution within 6 weeks
  • Pt will be able to perform ten 8” step downs without pain within 6 weeks

How to refer for a PCE

  • Call us with patient info
  • Name, phone #, address
  • Specific medical issues
  • Specific job analysis assists with return to job likelihood determination
  • Contact us about specific job requirements