How to use an inclinometer to measure the spine’s range of motion

Pronunciation: /ˌinkləˈnämitər

The inclinometer is a tool used to determine angles of motion—particularly when measuring the spine.

Besides being fun to say, an inclinometer is nothing more than a fancy level with a protractor on it.

How to use an inclinometer

Because the spine has motion at both the top and lower segments its necessary that two inclinometers be employed simultaneously for recording the dynamic motion. One inclinometer is placed at the top of the measured spine segment, and the other at the lower spine location. The measurement value of the lower spine is subtracted from the upper spine value. This result is known as the “true angle”.

Types of inclinometers

There are two types of inclinometers: manual and digital.

The manual inclinometer, sometimes referred to as a “bubble inclinometer” has a fluid filled face in a circle. The fluid is a combination of a colored fluid and a clear fluid. The fluid interface moves with gravity, and the movement of the interface is used to read the measurement off a rotating 360 degree face dial.

Manual inclinometers

Measuring spine motion with the manual inclinometer requires a bit of practiced talent. The patient is instructed to stand in the upright position and the dial faces are set to the 0 degree position. The user must then hold the two inclinometers at once on the spine while movement is measured. It sounds easy, but in practice for the first several exams, it is difficult. The user must coordinate the physical control of the inclinometer while also performing the calculations and documenting the findings. When using the dual manual inclinometers for the first time, it is like trying to catch a falling snake. Patience is a virtue and persistence is necessary to capture accurate and consistent measurements.  The upside of the manual inclinometer is that they are relatively inexpensive ($50 each on Amazon as of the writing of this article), and no batteries are necessary. The down side is they do take some practice and can be difficult to read due to the small print face. A good pair of reading glasses are recommended.

Digital inclinometers

Digital inclinometers have been gaining some popularity because of ease of use and automatic calculation of the true angle. Digital inclinometers are two electronic gravity sensors which have ability to standardize a zero measuring reference with the click of a button. They are approximately the size of a pocket-watch and are typically connected by an electronic cord. One end is the measurement reading end (typically referred to as the “master”) placed at the top of the spine. The other device is placed at the lower segment of the spine section (typically referred to as the “slave”). The upside of the digital inclinometer is the ease of use during exam, and it automatically calculates the true angle. The downside is the device may not have an auto off feature.  This means it is easy to leave on, and may be found dead for the next exam. Additionally, digital inclinometers are expensive and can range into the hundreds of dollars.


Regardless of the style of inclinometer used, understanding the inclinometer and its function is essential for accurate and well supported impairment report (PR-4 Report) conclusions. The time invested in becoming familiar with the inclinometer will result in faster and more accurate report for patients, workers’ compensation insurance carriers, employers, and administrators.

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A Stretch In Time Saves Nine

This quick and simple trick will greatly improve the accuracy of your impairment rating reports.

What’s the secret of reproducible measurements? Having patients do warm up exercises before taking down the exact numbers.

You’ll find that taking the the time to encourage your patient to do two or more warm up exercsises before taking measurement is absolutely worth it.

Your results will be more accurate and consistent, with greater reproducibility. Reproducibility within 10% is necessary for measurements to be considered valid by the AMA guides. Reproducible measurements also support stronger impairment conclusions. Although it may seem like extra work, the time you’ll save doing measurements on a patient that is properly warmed up will limit the need to reproduce measurements later on because your exam findings were off by more than 10%.

Don’t forget to do both the right and left side (yes, even the non-injured side!) so that you may compare measurements.

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The RateFast Philosophy

A lot of impairment rating reports (like PR-4 reports) are wrong. By “wrong,” we mean that many impairment ratings are not calculated according to the rules in the AMA Guides.

The insurance company has no standardized easy method to verify the doctor’s conclusions. The patient who depends on the doctor and the insurance carrier to correctly assign some monetary value to the injury is doubly in the dark.

Who loses when the impairment report is incorrect?


The doctor often needs to create a supplemental report to correct the rating and do the work twice. The insurance carrier has to re-issue a settlement and do the work twice. The patient loses faith in the accuracy of the doctor’s abilities, and has no choice but to endure additional delay. The employer’s insurance premiums are affected by the overall cost of the process.

There is good news, however. This story doesn’t need to happen anymore because doctors, carriers and patients can use  RateFast. RateFast is a web based program designed specifically to create or check the accuracy of California PR-4 reports.

The RateFast philosophy is simple: “Impairment ratings should be done right the first time.”

The RateFast answer is waiting for you now, just a click away on any internet device.

RateFast For Doctors

Doctors, you can start doing California PR-4 reporting accurately, quickly and confidently using RateFast.

Simple exam menus speed up reporting time and accuracy. RateFast is transcribing your report and preparing the impairment rating, leaving you free to communicate more meaningfully with the patient. Submit the report for rating with the click of a mouse or a tap on your iPad.

RateFast stores all of your workers’ compensation reports in digital form. You can also write Doctor’s First and PR-2 reports.

Doing work right the first time means more time getting paid, and less time fixing mistakes.

RateFast for Insurance Carrier Adjusters and Attorneys

Insurance carrier adjusters, start verifying the correct values of California PR-4 reports using our administrative portal. Simply provide the information for the PR-4 report that you need to review. Based on the hard facts of the claim, you’ll receive an impairment rating that is completely justified according to the AMA Guides.

RateFast for Patients

Patients, make sure your doctor is using RateFast. Ensure that your California PR-4 reports are complete and consistent with the California AMA Guides 5th Edition guidelines.


To check us out, go to our main website, Simply create an account, log in, and in seconds find out how easy and accurate California PR-4 report is done.

RateFast: Finally, A Solution That Works

Who among us is frustrated with the broken process of creating California PR-4 reports?

See the patient in a hurried clinic schedule. Take some measurements, or maybe not. Scribble some notes on the paper chart. Place it on a stack to be done later, much later. Because there are so many other tasks to do without the required block of time necessary to write a PR-4 report.

Why do we repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year?

Why? We’re too busy to find a solution.

Well, a solution just found you. The solution is RateFast.

RateFast is a web-based application like no other solution you have ever imagined. RateFast is complete point of service impairment reporting.

RateFast turns the ugly PR-4 report cycle on its head, and makes reporting simple, fast, profitable, and fun. Yep, we said “fun”.

Simply create an account, log in and in seconds you will be interviewing patients, taking guided measurements instructed by our interactive menus. All the while RateFast is transcribing your report and preparing the impairment rating while you are with the patient. Submit the report with the click of a mouse or the tap of an iPad.

At the end of your office visit your report is done. Yes, we said “done”, and that rhymes with “fun”.

…and best of all, with the extra time you finally get to meet those people who live in your house. They’re called your family.

Click here to start today and receive your first two reports entirely free.
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RateFast: California Worker’s Compensation PR-4 Reports Get A Total Makeover

Creating California PR-4 Reports just got easier for California workers compensation primary treating physicians. Gone are the confusing patient visits, incomplete questions and physical exams. Forget wrestling late nights with the AMA Guides tables and charts. Introducing RateFast.

RateFast is the first cloud-based comprehensive platform for creating complete and accurate California PR-4 Impairment reports.

Doctors simply create an account and start reporting.

RateFast has simple easy to use menus that guide the doctor and patient through the impairment rating process in the exam room.

Menus are customized to each patient’s individual injury. RateFast transcribes the impairment report as the doctor inputs relevant symptoms and physical exam findings.

The doctor’s findings are used by RateFast to create objective and supportable medical conclusions, including a whole person impairment rating (%WPI), in an easy to understand format.

Everyone benefits from a fast and accurate impairment report done right the first time.

Click here to start today and receive your first two reports entirely free.

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Tech Tolerance: How Using an Impairment Rating Calculator Solves Problems

Some professionals are skeptical of incorporating new devices and software into their practices. And why shouldn’t we be? Sometimes we’re reluctant to use new technology because these supposedly helpful tools have learning curves, and can create new problems.

Who hasn’t had a moment of longing for the “good old days” before gadgets and network errors and faulty EMRs?

New tools around the workplace should solve problems without creating new ones, and give people new skills they didn’t have before.

As anybody who has read the A.M.A. guides can attest to, calculating an impairment rating is a difficult art. Doctors aren’t professional A.M.A. scholars—they’re doctors. Their job is to help people, not fill out paperwork.

Enter RateFast. We designed our impairment rating calculator to get away from the complexity of the modern work environment. No training is necessary.  RateFast walks you through every step of a workers’ compensation examination, and when you leave the exam room, the impairment rating calculator has already begun to calculate your patient’s impairment rating, and to format your report.

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How an Impairment Rating Calculator Saves Millions on PR-4 Reports

When your employees get hurt on the job, a workers’ compensation case gets created. If you’re a CFO, then you want your company’s claims to close quickly—especially if you’re a self-insured business, and you pay for your own workers’ compensation insurance.

Unfortunately, workers’ compensation cases travel slowly, as you probably know if you’ve ever had a worker get injured on the job.

An injured worker’s case isn’t closed until a doctor files an accurate Permanent and Stationary report (PR-4 report). Seems simple enough, right?

It’s not. 98% of California’s Permanent and Stationary reports (PR-4 reports) and California impairment ratings are inaccurate. If a doctor submits an inaccurate report, then your employee can’t return to work, even if they’re capable of doing so. Another doctor called a QME will have to come and write yet another report, delaying the process even further.

This causes dispute between doctors, insurance companies, and businesses, which drags out the amount of time between when an injured worker’s claim opens and when it closes.

The longer a claim takes to get resolved, the longer your company needs to wait in PR-4 report purgatory. In between scheduling, busy offices, and the time it takes to complete paperwork, a single injured worker might cost you thousands of dollars.

You want to treat your injured worker well. But you also want to know if you need to find a replacement for their position, or if they’re going to be able to return to work—and you want to know soon. Inaccurate PR-4 reports causes delay that prevent businesses from moving forward.

But when you use an impairment rating calculator, such as RateFast, that expedites the process of worker’s comp cases, you could save millions of dollars over the long run.

RateFast’s mission is to solve the problems that the current workers’ compensation system causes for doctors, for insurance companies, and for self-insured businesses. Our impairment rating calculator gives accurate impairment ratings based on the 5th edition of the A.M.A. guides. RateFast also automates the process of writing, formatting, and submitting the report, which means that you can quickly welcome back your injured worker, or begin searching for a replacement. The accuracy of the reports is guaranteed to be in the top two percent of all PR-4 reports submitted in California.

Injuries hurt, but they don’t need to hurt your business. Make sure that your workers’ are examined by doctors who use RateFast. Try RateFast today.

Your Clinic Can Benefit from Workers’ Compensation Cases

Many clinics don’t want to deal with workers’ compensation cases. It’s understandable. They take a lot of time, paperwork, and effort.

Some doctors don’t feel comfortable writing Permanent and Stationary reports (PR-4 reports) because the 5th edition of the A.M.A. guides can be difficult to navigate.

Others get tired of squabbling with insurance companies or businesses or patients over the accuracy of an impairment rating, or the clarity of a patient’s work restrictions.

However, we believe that the problems associated with workers’ compensation cases can be solved.

Our impairment rating calculator (RateFast) automates the process of writing a PR-4 report, making it quick, easy, and lucrative to accept workers’ compensation cases.

Our easy to use cloud-based impairment rating calculator lets you fill out the report while you examine your patient.

RateFast automatically prompts you to ask the questions and take the measurements that are specific to your patient’s injuries.

What if you could answer the insurance company’s questions before they asked them? What if you had software that minimized the time spent completing PR-4 reports and maximized the profit? And what if the impairment ratings you gave were among the most accurate in California?

RateFast helps you complete injured workers’ cases faster and with more accuracy.

When you use RateFast, you don’t need to do any dictation.

You don’t need to take notes.

You don’t need to reread your notes.

You don’t need to calculate an impairment rating.

You don’t need to open the A.M.A. guides.

You don’t even need to write the report.

You simply examine your patient using our web-app, and three to five days later, you have an accurate impairment rating and a completed report that’s ready to print and sign within three to five days. There are no yearly fees either—you just pay as you go.

Sound too good to be true? Try it for yourself today—for free.