The ankle-foot complex
Sep 5, 2013 / 5:00 am
Most of the time, our foot is the only part of our body that is in contact with the ground. Due to the time spent on the ground and the forces of our body weight and gravity, the foot has to deal with great loads of stress. If the foot/ankle complex isn’t mobile enough to distribute the stress evenly throughout the lower extremity other areas of your body become affected - knees, hips, lower back, etc. So if there are restrictions in your ankle joint it will very likely work its way to these other areas mentioned.
Poor mobility in the ankle can be due to a number of factors. Having tight calf muscles (primarily the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) will cause the foot to appear more flexed (toes pointed down) as the gastroc/soleus muscles shorten and become tight. Previous ankle sprains can lead to scar tissue buildup in the medial and lateral ankle ligaments affecting the mobility in the talus bone as it articulates with the tibia. Sprains must be addressed properly to avoid scar tissue buildup and loss of ankle mobility because there will be some other compensatory movement occurring away from the ankle that could lead to lack of stability and possible injury. We often see this “ripple” effect if the symptom is addressed and the dysfunction is not dealt with accordingly.
Some of the common issues seen from lack of ankle mobility include squatting problems. Often seen in exercise, people who lack ankle mobility often have difficulty squatting cleanly and will struggle to keep their heels on the ground.
Another issue we see is foot pain, most commonly, plantar fasciitis. Tightening of the calf structures and Achilles tendon could lead to shortening of the plantar fascia creating pain in the sole of the foot. Other causes of plantar fasciitis could include standing on hard surfaces for longer periods of time, wearing improper shoes, poor biomechanics, repetitive impact activities and many more.
A certified Active Release Techniques (www.activerelease.com) can help to assess the areas of pain and also help you discover the underlying causes. They are also readily available to provide the most specific soft tissue treatment available.
If you are experiencing any of the injuries discussed above, chances are the problem has been going on much longer than the actual pain itself. Get assessed by your healthcare provider to locate the cause of the dysfunctional movement and how to start correcting it. Good luck!
Read more Back to Basics articles
- Supplements for pain management Nov 28
- Core exercises you are better off without Nov 14
- Why your back hurts Oct 31
- Choosing a personal trainer Oct 17
- The problem with "making good time" Oct 3
- The ankle-foot complex Sep 5
- Common questions in my office Aug 22
- Are your sources reliable? May 16
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