Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinopathy and Needling

Achilles pain. You can’t live with it and you can’t live with it. Can needling help? The obvious answer is yes, but there is more as well.

There appears to be sufficient data to support the use of needling for achilles tendon problems . Perhaps it is the “reorganization” of collagen that makes it effective or a blood flow/vascularization phenomenon. The mechanism probably has something to do with pain and the reticular formation sending information down the cord via the lateral cell column (intermediolateral cell nucleus) or pain (nociceptive) afferents sending a collateral in the spinal cord to the dysfunctional muscle, affecting the alpha receptors and causing vasodilation. 

Loss of ankle dorsiflexion is a common factor that seems to contribute to achilles tendinopathies . It would seem that improving ankle rocker would be most helpful. In at least one study, needling restored ankle function and in another it improved strength. 

And don’t forget to go north of the lower leg/foot/ankle complex. The gluteus medius can many times the culprit as well. During running, the gluteus medius usually fires before heel strike, most likely to stabilize the hip and the pelvis. In runners with Achilles Tendonitis, its firing is delayed which may affect the kinematics of knee and ankle resulting in rear foot inversion. Perhaps the delayed action of the gluteus medius allows an adductory moment of the pelvis, moving the center of gravity medially. This could conceivably place additional stress on the achilles tendon (via the lateral gastroc) to create more eversion of the foot from midstance onward.

Similarly, in runners with achilles tendoinopathy, the gluteus maximus does not fire as long and activation is delayed. The glute max should be the primary hip extensor and decreased hip extension might be compensated by an increased ankle plantarflexion which could potentially increase the load on the Achilles tendon. 

So, in short, yes, needling will probably help, for these reasons and probably many more. Make sure to needle all the dysfunctional muscles up the chain, beginning at the foot and moving rostrally.

Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapies to Manage Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Extremities: A Systematic Review. Cox J, Varatharajan S, Côté P, Optima Collaboration. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Jun;46(6):409-29. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2016.6270. Epub 2016 Apr 26

Acupuncture’s role in tendinopathy: new possibilities. Speed C. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):7-8. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010746. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

The effect of electroacupuncture on tendon repair in a rat Achilles tendon rupture model.  Inoue M, Nakajima M, Oi Y, Hojo T, Itoi M, Kitakoji H. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):58-64. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010611. Epub 2014 Oct 21.

KIishmishian B, Selfe J, Richards J A Historical Review of Acupuncture to the Achilles Tendon and the development of a standardized protocol for its use Journal of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherpists Spring 2012,  69-78

Acupuncture for chronic Achilles tendnopathy: a randomized controlled study. Zhang BM1, Zhong LW, Xu SW, Jiang HR, Shen J. Chin J Integr Med. 2013 Dec;19(12):900-4. doi: 10.1007/s11655-012-1218-4. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

The effect of dry needling and treadmill running on inducing pathological changes in rat Achilles tendon. Kim BS, Joo YC, Choi BH, Kim KH, Kang JS, Park SR. Connect Tissue Res. 2015 Nov;56(6):452-60. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2015.1052876. Epub 2015 Jul 29.

Tendon needling for treatment of tendinopathy: A systematic review.
Krey D, Borchers J, McCamey K. Phys Sportsmed. 2015 Feb;43(1):80-6. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2015.1004296. Epub 2015 Jan 22. Review.

Acupuncture increases the diameter and reorganisation of collagen fibrils during rat tendonhealing.
de Almeida Mdos S, de Freitas KM, Oliveira LP, Vieira CP, Guerra Fda R, Dolder MA, Pimentel ER. Acupunct Med. 2015 Feb;33(1):51-7. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010548. Epub 2014 Aug 19.

Electroacupuncture increases the concentration and organization of collagen in a tendon healing model in rats.
de Almeida Mdos S, de Aro AA, Guerra Fda R, Vieira CP, de Campos Vidal B, Rosa Pimentel E. Connect Tissue Res. 2012;53(6):542-7. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2012.710671. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

Changes in blood circulation of the contralateral Achilles tendon during and after acupunctureand heating.Kubo K, Yajima H, Takayama M, Ikebukuro T, Mizoguchi H, Takakura N. Int J Sports Med. 2011 Oct;32(10):807-13. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1277213. Epub 2011 May 26.

Microcirculatory effects of acupuncture and hyperthermia on Achilles tendon microcirculation. Kraemer R, Vogt PM, Knobloch K.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jul;109(5):1007-8. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1442-6. Epub 2010 Mar 28.

Effects of acupuncture and heating on blood volume and oxygen saturation of human Achilles tendon in vivo. Kubo K, Yajima H, Takayama M, Ikebukuro T, Mizoguchi H, Takakura N. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jun;109(3):545-50. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1368-z. Epub 2010 Feb 6.

 Insertional achilles tendinopathy associated with altered transverse compressive and axial tensile strain during ankle dorsiflexion. Chimenti RL, Bucklin M, Kelly M, Ketz J, Flemister AS, Richards MS, Buckley MR.
J Orthop Res. 2016 Jun 16. doi: 10.1002/jor.23338. [Epub ahead of print]

Forefoot and rearfoot contributions to the lunge position in individuals with and without insertionalAchilles tendinopathy. Chimenti RL, Forenza A, Previte E, Tome J, Nawoczenski DA.Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2016 Jul;36:40-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 May 11.

Ankle Power and Endurance Outcomes Following Isolated Gastrocnemius Recession for AchillesTendinopathy. Nawoczenski DA, DiLiberto FE, Cantor MS, Tome JM, DiGiovanni BF. Foot Ankle Int. 2016 Mar 17. pii: 1071100716638128. [Epub ahead of print]

 In vivo quantification of the shear modulus of the human Achilles tendon during passive loading using shear wave dispersion analysis.
Helfenstein-Didier C, Andrade RJ, Brum J, Hug F, Tanter M, Nordez A, Gennisson JL. Phys Med Biol. 2016 Mar 21;61(6):2485-96. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/61/6/2485. Epub 2016 Mar 7.

Changes of gait parameters and lower limb dynamics in recreational runners with achillestendinopathy. Kim S, Yu J. J Sports Sci Med. 2015 May 8;14(2):284-9. eCollection 2015 Jun.

Gastrocnemius recession for foot and ankle conditions in adults: Evidence-based recommendations. Cychosz CC, Phisitkul P, Belatti DA, Glazebrook MA, DiGiovanni CW. Foot Ankle Surg. 2015 Jun;21(2):77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.fas.2015.02.001. Epub 2015 Feb 26. Review.

Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study. Rabin A, Kozol Z, Finestone AS. J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.

Perry J. Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function. Thorofare, NJ: Slack 1992.

Chan YY, Mok KM, Yung PSh, Chan KM. Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol. 2009 Jul 30;1:14. doi: 10.1186/1758-2555-1-14.

Bilateral effects of 6 weeks’ unilateral acupuncture and electroacupuncture on ankle dorsiflexors muscle strength: a pilot study. Zhou S, Huang LP, Liu J, Yu JH, Tian Q, Cao LJ. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jan;93(1):50-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.08.010. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

Franettovich Smith MM1, Honeywill C, Wyndow N, Crossley KM, Creaby MW. : Neuromotor control of gluteal muscles in runners with achilles tendinopathy.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Mar;46(3):594-9.

and what have we been saying about loss of ankle rocker and achilles tendon problems for years now?

Here is a FREE, FULL TEXT article talking all about it

“A more limited ankle Dorsi Flexion ROM as measured in Non Weight Bearing with the knee bent increases the risk of developing Achilles Tendinopathy among military recruits taking part in intensive physical training.”

J Foot Ankle Res. 2014 Nov 18;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s13047-014-0048-3. eCollection 2014.Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits: a prospective cohort study.Rabin A1, Kozol Z, Finestone AS.

link to full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243387/

Wow!  Can you figure out why this person at the distal end of her first metatarsal under her medial sesamoid.

She recently underwent surgery for a broken fibula (distal with plate fixation) and microfracrure of the medial malleolus. You are looking at her full range of dorsiflexion which is improved from approximately 20° plantarflexion. She is now at just under 5°.

She has just begun weight-bearing and developed pain over the medial sesamoid.

The three rockers, depicted above from Thomas Michauds book, or necessary for normal gait.  This patient clearly has a loss of ankle rocker. Because of this loss her foot will cantilever forward and put pressure on the head of the first metatarsal.  This is resulting in excessive forefoot rocker.  Her other option would have been to pronate through the midfoot. Hers is relatively rigid so, as Dr. Allen likes to say, the “buck was passed to the next joint. ”

There needs to be harmony in the foot in that includes each rocker working independently and with in its normal range. Ankle rocker should be at least 10° with 15° been preferable and for footlocker at least 50° with 65 been preferable.

 If you need to know more about rockers, click here.

Sounds like a bad idea

Orthotics, can be useful adjunct to care. They can be used to give people biomechanics that they do not have while you were trying to improve them and help to make up for ranges of motion which do not seem attainable.

From the gate cycle we know that after initial contact and loading response the calcaneus should start to evert. The calcaneus will continue to evert until it encounters something (like the lateral heel counter of the shoe). At mid stance it should be fully everted and as the opposite leg comes in to swing, begin to invert. The lateral heel counter assists in the inversion/supination process.

To our knowledge, flip-flops, even if they have an increased arch, do not have a lateral heel counter and therefore will promote further lateral excursion of the calcaneus while the medial longitudinal arch is collapsing  (i.e.: midfoot pronation). Go ahead and place your foot into inversion and see what happens to your heel. It’s slides laterally.

It’s also well-established that flip-flops, through flexion of the distal toes and engagement of the long flexor tendons, inhibits ankle rocker. It is often necessary to engage these muscles to keep the flip-flop from coming off. Lack of ankle rocker usually will inhibit hip extension and that can cause a constellation of problems.

Though engagement of the long flexors of the toes will have a partial anti-pronatory effect, this is not enough to counter the excessive heel  eversion which is happening.

We generally do not think the flip-flops are a great idea and telling someone that it’s “OK” to wear flip-flops as long as it has appropriate arch support, is silly.

Do you know where your rocker is?

At 1st pass, some articles may seem like a sleeper, but there can be some great clinical pearls to be had. I recently ran across one of these. It was a presentation from the  42nd annual American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists meeting in Orlando, March 2016 entitled “ Shifting Position of Shoe Heel Rocker Affects Ankle Mechanics During Gait”. The title caught my eye.

They looked at ankle kinematics while keeping the toe portion of rocker constant at 63% of foot length, angled at 25 degrees and shifting the base of a rockered shoe from 1cm behind the medial malleolus, directly under it and 1cm anterior to it. Knee and hip kinematics did not differ significantly, however ankle range of motion did.

The more forward the ankle rocker, the less plantarflexion but more ankle dorsiflexion at midstance. So, the question begs, why do we care? Lets explore that further…

  • Think about the “average” heel rocker in a shoe. It largely has to do with the length of the heel and heel flare (base) of the shoe. The further back this is (ie; the more “flare”) the more plantar flexion at heel strike and less ankle dorsiflexion (and thus ankle rocker, as described HERE) you will see. Since loss of ankle dorsiflexion (ie: rocker) usually means a loss of hip extension (since these 2 things should be relatively equal during gait (see here), and that combination can be responsible for a whole host of problems that we talk about here on the blog all the time. Picking a shoe with a heel rocker based further forward (having less of a flare) would stand to promote more ankle dorsiflexion.
  • Having a shoe with a greater amount of “drop” from heel to toe (ie: ramp delta) is going to have the same effect. It will move the calcaneus forward with respect to the heel of the shoe and effectively move the rocker posteriorly.
  • Lastly, look a the shape of the outsole of the shoe. The toe drop is usually clear to see, but does it have a heel rocker (see the picture above)?

These are  a few examples of what to look for in a clients shoe when examining theirs or making a recommendation, depending on whether you are trying to improve or decrease ankle rocker. We can’t think of why you would want to decrease ankle rocker, but with conditions like rigid hallux limitus, where the person has limited or no dorsiflexion of the great toe, you may want to employ a rockered sole shoe. We would recommend one with the rocker set more forward.

This is apparently a growing thing, INTERVAL walking. Oy. We are not particular fans at this point, nothing exciting or earth shattering at this point (other than the concerns we hi light below) but we will look into it more.
What you need to see, and be aware of, is that this is what happens when you wear a shoe that has too soft a rear foot. At heel strike, instead of progressing forward into the mid and forefoot, the rear foot of the shoe deforms and forces you into more HEEL rocker, sustained heel rocker. If you stay in heel rocker too long, you won’t progress forward into ANKLE rocker (ankle dorsiflexion). This often causes knee hyperextension. If you have a good trained eye, you will see both of these things, prolonged heel rocker and never any ankle rocker/ankle dorsiflexion. IT is like the ankle in this video is frozen at 90 degrees the entire time, train your eye to see this absense of ankle rocker. This will cause premature heel rise and premature posterior compartment contraction which can cause premature forefoot loading. This is what happens when the heel of the shoe is too soft. A perfect example of “more cushion” is not always better. IT can be a liability as well. Remember the angry revolution over the MBT shoe and its mushy rear foot?. Same principle, same risks and concerns. Welcome to round two of the same old problems ????? Maybe. you decide. To be clear, this is a comment on the shoes being used, the technique is , well, perhaps interesting. That is all we are willing to comment on at this point until we look into it more. Look at the heel and ankle mechanics during the slow mo clips.
Sorry Ben Greenfield. We are not impressed, as of yet. We like your podcast Ben, you are doing us all a great service, but this one is promoting some potential problems that people need to know about.
Start with our “Shuffle Walk”. Google search it under the Gait Guys. That is a good start.

– Dr. Allen

“Is your client feeling better because they are truly fixed, or have your prescribed corrective exercises merely raised the capacity and durability of their compensation ?  Welcome to a global industry problem.”  -Dr. Allen

Which hip will have troubles extending ?

Remember this quiz question from 2 weeks ago ? I talked about how the body will compensate to level the pelvis (and eyes and vestibular apparatus).

Lets go further down the rabbit hole.  Here is your question of the week (you may have to go back and review the prior blog post if you are unsure of how the body will cope with the slope.  Here is that first blog post.

Question: Which hip will have troubles getting into hip extension and thus terminal glute-hip-pelvis stabilization ?

Answer:  scroll down (at least think about it for a second)

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Answer:

The leg on the up slope of the beach, the non-water side leg will have to be in a modest degree of knee flexion to shorten and accommodate to the slope. A Flexed knee is not an extended one and it will be far more difficult to extend the hip and get into the glutes. Propulsion will also be compromised.  For you indoor small track runners this will happen to you on the inside leg on the curves of the track. This is why we see so many hamstring injuries during indoor track.  Think about it ! It is not just bad luck.  Go ahead, tally up  your teams history of hamstring injuries, you should find more on the left leg for track runners. It is simple applied biomechanics.   Also, imagine the altered demand on the quadriceps on that flexed knee (the right knee in the picture above, and the left knee in circle track runners). Furthermore, what is the likelihood that the right pelvis will deviate into an anterior tilted posture ? You bet ya, a greater tendency, and thus a possibly shortened quadriceps/hip flexor mechanism.  Do you think this could inhibit hip extension and gluteal function ? You bet ya.  Oh, and one more thing, if you are true gait nerd, you should have asked yourself one more question, what about ankle rocker ?  Yes, you will need more ankle rocker on the beach side foot (flexed knee side). When the knee flexes, there must be more ankle rocker for this to occur, if not, you may implode into some unwelcome arch collapse, because arch collapse offers more false ankle rocker. What a mess huh !   Now, do not be shocked EVER again when your client’s come back from a sunny beach vacation from walking the beaches for hours every day, and find themselves a stark raving mad mess.  It is not the salty ocean air or the tequila, it is the slope. One could make a case that walking up and down the beach should balance things out, but that is only if we are balanced and symmetrical when we start out. Gravity always wins.

One final rant. If you are offering “corrective exercises” to your clients, you had better know at least the basics of movement and biomechanics. And further more, you had better know how to examine for them, and that means hands on assessment of the body, not just looking at how your client moves through a battery of tests. If the prior blog post (here) and today’s blog post principles are not remedial principles of knowledge for you, offering corrective exercises without this knowledge and a physical exam to confirm your assumptions is fraught with disaster, or at least helping your client to build deeper compensations on their prior compensations. Is your client feeling better because they are truly fixed, or have your prescribed corrective exercises merely raised the capacity and durability of their compensation ?  This is the kind of stuff that keeps my new patient scheduling booked at 4-8 weeks out … . .  frustrated clients.

This is why we do not offer online consultations like some do. Because, we have not figured out how to obtain the third dimension needed in our gait and movement observation (thank you Oculus Rift, the future is near) but more so, we cannot take that information and put it together with our own physical examination to determine whether if what we are seeing is the actual problem, or a compensation. Here in lies the pot of gold.

Another clinical pearl from Dr. Allen

Dragging your tongue ? When the tongue of your shoe keeps getting pulled to the side. Do you know what it means ? It means plenty, if you are sharp.

By: Dr. Shawn Allen

This one pisses off most people it happens to. Why does it typically happen only on one side, on one shoe ? Look at the photo case above. Look closely to the left foot, the tongue of the shoe is pulled laterally compared to the right, or shall I say, dragged.

This is a fairly common phenomenon, and there is a reason for it, several actually. So, no, you do not need to staple the tongue to the shoe upper, or tighten your shoe laces, or stitch the tongue to the medial shoe upper. You need to stop externally spinning your foot in your darn shoe.  What ?!

Yes, you very well may be avoiding normal internal rotation progression of the pelvis over the fixated limb. Loss of internal hip rotation is often a common finding clinically. As one passes the swing leg forward, the forward progressing pelvis eventually meets this loss of internal rotation over the fixated leg and femoral head. The swing leg none the less progresses further forward to get to its’ heel strike and the stance phase leg has to externally spin over the ground (I like to give the analogy of putting out a cigarette butt on the ground or squishing a bug (PETA don’t come after me)). This is called an Abductory or Adductory twist (good video demo here) depending on whether your reference point is the forefoot or rear foot. Regardless, the heel is spinning inward, the forefoot is relatively spinning outward. This spin of the foot inside the shoe (this happens minutely just before the shoe spins on the ground) and pulls the tongue laterally with it.  

This problem can also come from, and often does, a premature heel rise from things like a:

  •  loss of ankle rocker
  • short calf
  • lack of hip extension
  • hallux rigidus / limitus or even a painful big toe
  • etc

There are even several other causes I will not list here today, I could have you waste your whole day on the list and the mental gymnastics of things to consider. Basically, anything that impairs the stance phase mechanics creating a premature heel rise or failure of completing internal hip rotation can cause an Abd/Adductor twist of the foot/heel and drag the tongue laterally. Sure, there are others, but the purpose of my blog post here today was to explain a neat little biomechanical phenomenon that  has huge clinical insight if you know what it means.  You cannot fix this problem if you do not do a physical exam, understand clean and faulty gait biomechanics, and maybe can even find small objects in a dark room.  What I mean is it takes some educated exploration and a curiosity to want to fix things.  

There are clues often right in front of you, all you have to do is pay attention and sometimes ask a simple question. 

“Mr. Jones, when you stick out your tongue, does it drag laterally ?”  

Ok, maybe not that exact question. But, when I see a loss of internal rotation or terminal hip extension in a runner, and when I have time to explain things deeply with a openly receiving client, I might start the conversation with that fun question and then explain what I really meant was the tongue of the shoe on that affected side. 

You can’t swallow bandaids to fix things, as much as you wish it was that easy. Sure, you can avoid all of this fun by buying a shoe that has the tongue of the shoe sewn to the medial upper of the shoe, but then you wouldn’t have to fix anything.  Where would you “get your fun on” then ?  Be brave, go all in, fix the problem dammit.  

These are the things that keep me up at night. Welcome to my nightmares.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Photo courtesy of this weartested.org link: http://weartested.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/altra-superior-2-top-socks.jpg

Where your gait might break down.

Gait appears most robust to weakness of hip and knee extensors, which can tolerate weakness well and without a substantial increase in muscle stress. In contrast, gait is most sensitive to weakness of plantarflexors, hip abductors, and hip flexors. – van der Krogt

In the past few weeks I have shared my thoughts on some articles regarding low back paraspinal musculature fatigue and the subsequent effects on motorneuron pools, specifically excitability of the soleus and quadriceps. These shared thoughts are from recent papers in the literature (search the blog over the last week). These effects are suggested to indicate a postural response to preserve lower limb function. In other words, as paraspinal fatigue set in, lower extremity muscle compensation ramped up to sustain postural locomotion demands.  Obviously, one should think this a step further and translate it all into questions of assessment of ankle dorsiflexion (ankle rocker) and control of progressing knee and hip flexion when pertaining to these muscles. The issues of stability and mobility should heighten. The one big problem in these studies, and you have even likely had these thoughts during your clinical examinations, is that one cannot truly fatigue one muscle group alone especially during activity, nor can one assess a single muscle group during manual testing. Luckily we have EMG testing capabilities in this day and age and we can more easily look into the function and reaction of a muscle and its’ direct response reactions. 

Today I have an article by van der Krogt that we read long ago, but that which one of our readers brought back into our wheelhouse.  This is pretty amazing stuff.

“This study examines the extent to which lower limb muscles can be weakened before normal walking is affected. We developed muscle-driven simulations of normal walking and then progressively weakened all major muscle groups, one at the time and simultaneously, to evaluate how much weakness could be tolerated before execution of normal gait became impossible. We further examined the compensations that arose as a result of weakening muscles. Our simulations revealed that normal walking is remarkably robust to weakness of some muscles but sensitive to weakness of others. Gait appears most robust to weakness of hip and knee extensors, which can tolerate weakness well and without a substantial increase in muscle stress. In contrast, gait is most sensitive to weakness of plantarflexors, hip abductors, and hip flexors. Weakness of individual muscles results in increased activation of the weak muscle, and in compensatory activation of other muscles. These compensations are generally inefficient, and generate unbalanced joint moments that require compensatory activation in yet other muscles. As a result, total muscle activation increases with weakness as does the cost of walking.“-van der Krogt

So, if your client comes in with knee, hip or ankle pain and a history of low back pain, you might want to pull out these articles. You may want to consider which muscles are, according to this article, most robust and sensitive to weakness. Remember what I mentioned when i reviewed the soleus article ? I mentioned that the reduced ankle dorsiflexion range may be from a soleus muscle postural compensation reaction to low back pain. Today’s article seemed to confirm that this muscle group is sensitive to weakness. In today’s discussion, not only is the impairment of the hip ranges of motion or control of the knee (from quadriceps adaptive compensation) possibly related to low back pain, in this case, paraspinal fatigue but it may be a muscle group robust to weakness which is a darn good thing when the paraspinals go to nap.

Sometimes the problem is from the bottom up, sometimes it is from the top down. It is what makes this game so challenging and mind numbing at times. If this is all too much for you, in teasing out this quagmire of a system, just throw corrective exercises at your client and hope for the best. What is the worst that can happen if you get it wrong ? Stronger compensations on already present compensations … . . why not, it is good for return business (insert sarcasm emoticon).  But, lets be honest, if it was easy everyone would be doing it the right way. But the truth is that it is a long journey, and we are on the same bus of discovery with you all. 

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys.

Reference:

Gait Posture. 2012 May;36(1):113-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.01.017. Epub 2012 Mar 3.How robust is human gait to muscle weakness?van der Krogt MM1, Delp SL, Schwartz MH.

Yes, you are looking INSIDE this toe. That IS a screw and metal plate in that toe. 

What kind of stuff finds its way into your office ? I get all kinds of things it seems, at least once a day something comes in that makes me scratch my head. 

This client just wanted my opinion and thoughts on their toe and their gait once they are ambulating again. They have had multiple surgeries to this poor foot. You can see multiple scars over multiple digits and metatarsals.  This is the 3rd surgery to the big toe, the last 2 have been attempts at correcting failed prior surgeries. This is obviously the last straw surgery, total fusion of the metatarsophalangeal joint.  What is interesting in this case is that this plate was taken out about 4 weeks ago, and the skin was stretched back over and the wound closed up (forgot to take update photo for you). I saw it yesterday, and I was amazed at how healed up the area was. They are months post op now, and they can load the toe heavily now, that is always amazing to me. The body’s healing ability is a miracle. Of course, if you have been with us here long enough you will know that my “concern button” immediately got pushed but the client was proactive and asked the question before my oral diarrhea of concerns started.

So, they wanted to know about their gait and what to watch out for.  Off the top of your head, without thinking, you should be able to rattle off the following:

  • impaired toe off
  • premature heel rise
  • watchful eye on achilles issues
  • impaired hip extension and gluteal function
  • impaired terminal ankle plantar flexion (because they cannot access the synergists FHL and FHB)
  • impaired terminal ankle dorsi flexion (because they cannot access the synergists EHL and EHB)
  • lateral toe off which will promote ankle and foot inversion, which will challenge the peronei
  • frontal plane hip-pelvis drift because of the lateral toe off and lack of glute function
  • possible low back pain/tightness because of the  frontal plane pelvis drift and from altered hip extension motor patterning (and glute impairment)
  • possible knee pain from tracking challenges because they cannot complete medial tripod loading and thus sufficient pronation to internally spin the limb to get the knee to sagittal loading
  • impaired arm swing, more notable contralaterally

There is more, but that is enough for now. You need to know total body mechanics, movement patterns, normal gait cycle events (you have to know normal to know abnormal) and more. You have to know what normal is to understand when you are looking at abnormal.

* So, dial this back to something more simple, a “stubbed toe”, a painful sesamoid, painful pronation or a turf toe or hallux limitus.  They will all have the same list of complications that need to be evaluated, considered and addressed. This list should convey the importance that if your client has low back pain, examining the big toe motion is critical. Also, if you are just looking at the foot and toe in these cases, pack your bags … .  you don’t belong here. If you are just adjusting feet and toes and playing with orthotics while the list above does not constantly file back and forth through your brain, again, pack all your bags, grab your cat and leave town (just kidding, try reading more and get to some seminars).

If you know the complicated things, then the simple things become … … . . simple.

Your local treadmill gait analysis guru should know all of this if they are going to recommend shoes and exercises. Shame on them if there is no physical exam however. The data roadmap from the gait analysis software print out is not going to get you even out of the driveway let alone down the street. The data is going to tell you what you are doing to compensate, not tell you what is wrong. You must know anatomy, biomechanics, neurology, orthopedics and how to apply them to get the recipe right, not just which shoe in a store will unload the medial tripod of the foot or which exercise will lengthen your stride on the left. 

… .  sorry for the rant, too much coffee this morning, obviously.

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys