Ankle Range of Motion

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When it comes to overuse injuries it is really easy to see them as an isolated event. The problem, however, is that overuse injuries are not an isolated thing. In fact, overuse injuries are the result of a mechanical problem. This could be mobility loss, decreased strength, or even coordination/muscle imbalance. Whatever the restriction, the injuries that happen are a result of the body compensating and ultimately working in a way it isn’t designed to. Eventually, it will result in something breaking down under the strain produced by that compensation.

The reason I bring all of this up is to point out that a single mechanical problem can actually manifest in a number of ways. Let’s take a look at ankle dorsiflexion for example:

Ankle dorsiflexion is your ability to bring the shin/tibia over the foot. Walking around normally doesn’t doesn’t require that much, but when moving at effort, the demands increase as you load the foot and ankle in prep for more propulsion. Restrictions here will limit that load period and in some cases stop your ability to push off of the foot completely. This means your body has to find a new way to move forward or you will fall over your own two feet. Depending on how your body tries to compensate, a number of injuries are possible.

That is why I wanted to do a blog series about normal mechanics and mobility. There is a reason certain treatments are seen across multiple injuries. It’s because even though what broke is different, the mechanical problems that led to it are likely the same.

With that in mind let’s get started. Up First? The Ankle Joint

In a lot of ways the ankle is the gateway to normal walking, running, etc. Our foot is the first thing to hit the ground and the mobility our ankle provides is what allows us to move over and push off of that foot. Without it, compensation is required to keep you from falling over your own foot. Let’s take a closer look! (note: the last minute is a self test. pause as you need to!)

 

In the self test at the end, we went through three movements. Here’s a breakdown of the test + next steps:

Self Test Walk through Result How To Fix
Dorsiflexion
  1. start in half kneeling position
  2. keep heel perfectly flat on floor
  3. lunge forward so that your knee comes over your toes.
  4. stop when you feel your heel start to come up
Ideally, you want to be able to keep you heel down and move your knee comfortably over the toes.

If you can’t do this, the next two tests will help determine if the restrictions are above the ankle or below it.

  • If your ankle mobility was normal? Nothing to fix!
  • If your ankle was limited with just this movement? Start with the calf basics course.
  • If your ankle was limited in all movements? You will need to address multiple areas. Combine the calf, knee and foot basics courses. If you have a premium account, the chronic tight calves course will streamline this for you.
Dorsiflexion with toes on stretch
  1. place something under the toes. in the video I am using a massage stick. 1-2 inches of height is plenty.
  2. relax the foot and repeat the first test.
How did your ankle mobility change? Did it stay the same or did it get worse?

If it got worse, that likely means that you have restrictions in the foot itself. This can be the small muscles within the foot, the long tendons coming from the deep calf, or a combination of both.

  • If your mobility was unchanged and looked normal? Perfect!
  • If your mobility got worse with this test, you will want to add in work on the foot itself. For free users, check out the foot basics course in addition to the calf basics course from above. For premium users, the chronic tight calves course will streamline this for you.
Dorsiflexion with knee on stretch
  1. keep your heel perfectly flat
  2. straighten the knee so that it is locked straight and repeat the first test
How did your ankle mobility change? Did it get worse with the knee straight or did it stay the same?

If it got worse, that likely means that you have restrictions behind the knee where the gastroc and hamstring tendons criss cross each other.

  • If your mobility was unchanged and looked normal? Awesome!
  • If your mobility got worse with this test, you will want to add in work on the back of the knee. For free users, check out the hamstring basics course in addition to the calf basics course from above. For premium users, the chronic tight calves course will streamline this for you.

 

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