We have all heard the song “heads and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes,” but aside from the hip, the spine, the wrist and other various joints that are not mentioned in that same song there is another very important joint. That joint is the ankle.
The ankle is a hinge-type joint that allows for plantarflexion (pointing toes away from body) and dorsiflexion (drawing toes up towards the body) as well as some rotational movements into inversion (rolling in) and eversion (rolling out). These range of motion are incredibly important in just achieving a normal gait pattern (walking style) which minimises energy usage. Efficiency of movement also translates to more even distribution of load through the appropriate muscle groups. This reduces the incidence of muscle tendinopathies, strains or tears of the muscles, and joint/bone pain which can often occur when there is restriction into one or a combination of the different ranges of motion at the ankle.
Common injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy or shin splints have often a strong correlation to reduced ankle dorsiflexion or plantarflexion. The muscles that cross the ankle are having to work a lot harder to produce the same movement which leads to increased loading and the onset of such injuries. A lot of the sporting client’s that come through with an injury that isn’t related to the ankle also have a history of previous rolled ankles etc. and tend to have reduced range of motion at the ankle because of scar tissue development and/or thickening of ligaments. It is this that can often be the cause of the injury.
With a huge shift of people training into functional movement patterns and using squats, deadlifts and Olympic lifting as their preferred exercises, there has also been a high prevalence of assessment and focus on hip range of motion to facilitate this. However what people don’t see is that their ankle range must be adequate to allow for hip mobility to occur also. For example, If a person cannot maintain neutral foot position and move freely into dorsiflexion during a squat, it alters the entire biomechanics up the chain through the knees and hips which creates secondary problems.
I could go on for pages and pages of what limitations of ankle mobility is doing to your running, walking, squatting, cycling or whatever it is that you do often. The truth is that if you have a lower leg or low back injury, it isn’t always just the site of the injury that is the cause and you must look above and below!
Check your ankles!
Do you experience pain or discomfort around your ankles? Book in to see one of our physio's today and don't leave it any longer - book online here, or call us on (08) 9448 2994.