Why does this gal have so much limited external rotation of her legs? 

 We have discussed torsions and versions here on the blog many times before. We rarely see femoral antetorsion. She came in to see us with the pain following a total hip replacement on the right.

 Note that she has fairly good internal rotation of the hips bilaterally but limited external rotation. This is usually not the case, as most folks lose internal rotation. We need 4 to 6° internal and external rotation to walk normally. This poor gal has very little external rotation available to her.

Have you figured out what’s going on with hips yet? She has a condition called femoral ante torsion.   This means that the angle of the femoral neck is in excess of 12°. This will allow her to have a lot of internal rotation but very little external rotation.  She will need to either “create” or “borrow” her requisite external rotation from somewhere. In this case she decreases her progression of gait (intoed), and borrows the remainder from her lumbar spine.

 So what do we do? We attempt to create more external rotation. We are accomplishing this with exercises that emphasize external rotation, acupuncture/needling of the hip capsule and musculature which would promote external rotation (posterior fibers of gluteus medius,  gluteus maximus, vastus medialis, biceps femoris). A few degrees can go a very long way as they have in this patient. 

confused? Did you miss our awesome post on femoral torsions: click here to learn more.

All that is twisted is not tibial

Last week we posted on measuring tibial torsions (click here to read that post). This week we are posting on measuring the other, often over looked torsion: “femoral torsion”.

Perhaps you have read some of our posts on femoral torsion, particularly this one.

We remember that as hip (thigh) flexion increases, the amount of internal rotation of the femur decreases. This is due largely to the direction of the hip capsule ligaments (ishiofemoral, iliofemoral and pubeofemoral ligaments) “spiraling” from their attachment from the femur to the innominate. This may seem like a subtle detail until you thing about how much hip flexion occurs when we do a squat, and what exactly, is the position of our feet.

We start life with the hips anteverted (ie, the angle of the neck of the femur with the shaft of the femur is > 12 degrees; in fact at birth it is around 35 degrees) and this angle should decrease as we age to about 8-12 degrees). When we stand, the heads of our femurs point anteriorly; it is just a matter of how much (ante version or ante torsion) or how little  (retro version or retro torsion) that is. If you are a precise person and would really like to geek out on the difference between versions or torsions, check out this post here

Measurement is important, because the more retro torsion you have (ie, the smaller the angle is), the less internal rotation of the femur you will have available to you. An important fact if you are planning on squatting. 

An easy way to do this is by approximating the angle of the femoral neck by performing “Craig’s Test”. Have your patient/client/athlete lie prone with their knee flexed 90 degrees. Palpate the greater trochanter (the bump on the side of the hip that the gluteus medius muscles attach to) with one hand while using the other hand to grasp around the ankle and internally and externally rotate the femur (we like to use the right hand on the right trochanter for the patient/client/athletes right leg). Note the position of the tibia when the greater trochanter is parallel to the table (see diagram above from Tom Michaud’s most excellent text: Human Locomotion: the conservative management of gait related disorders, available by clicking here). The smaller the angle, the more retro version/torsion present). 

This is also a convenient way to estimate the amount of internal and external rotation of the femur available. One source states that internal rotation of greater than 70 degrees and external rotation of less than 25 degrees means that there is excessive femoral ante torsion present (1).

Craig’s Test: a convenient way to measure torsions of the femur. Important if you squat! Brought to you by The Gait Guys: Uber Gait Geeks Extrodinaire. 

(1) Staheli LT. Rotational problems in the lower extremity. Orthop Clin North Am, 1987; 18:503-512

You can only “borrow” so much before you need to “pay it back”

How can feet relate to golf swing?

This 52 year old right handed gentleman presented with pain at the thoracolumbar junction after playing golf. He noticed he had a limited amount of “back swing” and pain at the end of his “follow through”.

Take a look a these pix and think about why.

Hopefully, in addition to he having hairy and scarred legs (he is a contractor by trade), you noted the following

  • Top left: note the normal internal rotation of the right hip; You need 4 degrees to walk normally and most folks have close to 40 degrees. He also has internal tibial torsion.
  • Top right: loss of external rotation of the right hip. Again, you need 4 degrees (from neutral) of external rotation of the hip to supinate and walk normally.
  • Top center:normal internal rotation of the left hip; internal tibial torsion
  • 3rd photo down: limited external rotation of the left hip, especially with respect ti the amount of internal rotation present; this is to a greater degree than the right
  • 4th and 5th photos down: note the amount of tibial varum and tibial torsion. Yes, with this much varum, he has a forefoot varus.

The brain is wired so that it will (generally) not allow you to walk with your toes pointing in (pigeon toed), so you rotate them out to somewhat of a normal progression angle (for more on progression angles, click here). If you have internal tibial torsion, this places the knees outside the saggital plane. (For more on tibial torsion, click here.) If you rotate your extremity outward, and already have a limited amount of range of motion available, you will take up some of that range of motion, making less available for normal physiological function. If the motion cannot occur at the knee or hip, it will usually occur at the next available joint cephalad, in this case the spine.

The lumbar spine has a limited amount of rotation available, ranging from 1.2-1.7 degrees per segment in a normal spine (1). This is generally less in degenerative conditions (2).

Place your feet on the ground with your feet pointing straight ahead. Now simulate a right handed golf swing, bending slightly at the waist and  rotating your body backward to the right. Now slowly swing and follow through from right to left. Note what happens to your hips: as you wind back to the right, the left hip is externally rotating and the right hip is internally rotating. As you follow through to the left, your right, your hip must externally rotate and your left hip must externally rotate. Can you see how his left hip is inhibiting his back swing and his right hip is limiting  his follow through? Can you see that because of his internal tibial torsion, he has already “used up” some of his external rotation range of motion?

If he does not have enough range of motion in the hip, where will it come from?

he will “borrow it” from a joint more north of the hip, in this case, his spine. More motion will occur at the thoracolumbar junction, since most likely (because of degenerative change) the most is available there; but you can only “borrow” so much before you need to “Pay it back”. In this case, he over rotated and injured the joint.

What did we do?

  • we treated the injured joint locally, with manipulation of the pathomechanical segments
  • we reduced inflammation and muscle spasm with acupuncture
  • we gave him some lumbar and throacolumbar stabilization exercises: founders exercise, extension holds, non tripod, cross crawl, pull ups
  • we gave him foot exercises to reduce his forefoot varus: tripod standing, EHB, lift-spread-reach
  • we had him externally rotate both feet (duck) when playing golf

The Gait Guys. Helping you to store up lots “in your bank” of foot and gait literacy, so you can help people when they need to “pay it back”, one case at a time.

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2223353/

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705911/

Remember this kiddo?

We have been following the natural development of this little guy for some time now. For a review, please see here (1 year ago) and here (2 years ago) for our previous posts on him.

In the top 2 shots, the legs are neutral. The 3rd and 4th shots are full internal rotation of the left and right hips respectively. The last 2 shots are full external rotation of the hips.

Well, what do you think now?

We remember that this child has external tibial torsion and pes planus. As seen in the supine photo, when the knees face forward, the feet have an increased progression angle (they turn out). We are born with some degree / or little to none, tibial torsion and the in-toeing of infants is due to the angle of the talar neck (30 degrees) and femoral anteversion (the angle of the neck of the femur and the distal end is 35 degrees).  The lower limbs rotate outward at a rate of approximately 1.5 degrees per year to reach a final angle of 22 degrees….. that is of course if the normal de rotation that a child’s lower limbs go through occurs timely and completely.

He still has a pronounced valgus angle at the the knees (need a review on Q angles? click here). We remember that the Q angle is negative at birth (ie genu varum) progresses to a maximal angulation of 10-15 degrees at about 3.5 years, then settles down to 5-7 degrees by the time they have stopped growing. He is almost 4 and it ihas lessend since the last check to 15 degrees.

His internal rotation of the hips should be about 40 degrees, which it appears to be. External rotation should match; his is a little more limited than internal rotation, L > R. Remember that the femoral neck angle will be reducing at the rate of about 1.5 degrees per year from 35 degrees to about 12 in the adult (ie, they are becoming less anteverted).

At the same time, the tibia is externally rotating (normal tibial version) from 0 to about 22 degrees. He has fairly normal external tibial version on the right and still has some persistent internal tibial version on the left. Picture the hips rotating in and the lower leg rotating out. In this little fellow, his tibia is outpacing the hips. Nothing to worry about, but we do need to keep and eye on it.

What do we tell his folks?

  • He is developing normally and has improved significantly since his original presentation to the office
  • Having the child walk barefoot has been a good thing and has provided some intrinsic strength to the feet
  • He needs to continue to walk barefoot and when not, wear shoes with little torsional rigidity, to encourage additional intrinsic strength to the feet
  • He should limit “W” sitting, as this will tend to increase the genu valgus present
  • We gave him 1 leg balancing “games” and encouraged agility activities, like balance beam, hopping, skipping and jumping on each leg individually

We are the Gait Guys, promoting gait and foot literacy, each and every post.