Exploring the Links Between Human Movement, Biomechanics & Gait
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.
This is not your typical “in this person has internal tibial torsion, yada yada yada” post. This post poses a question and the question is “Why does this gentleman have a forefoot adductus?”
The first two pictures show me fully internally rotating the patients left leg. You will note that he does not go past zero degrees and he has femoral retroversion. He also has bilateral internal tibial torsion, which is visible in most of the pictures. The next two pictures show me fully internally rotating his right leg, with limited motion, as well and internal tibial torsion, which is worse on this ® side
The large middle picture shows him rest. Note the bilateral external rotation of the legs. This is most likely to create some internal rotation, because thatis a position of comfort for him (ie he is creating some “relief” and internal rotation, by externally rotating the lower extremity)
The next three pictures show his anatomically short left leg. Yes there is a large tibial and small femoral component.
The final picture (from above) shows his forefoot adductus. Note that how, if you were to bisect the calcaneus and draw a line coming forward, the toes fall medial to a line that would normally be between the second and third metatarsal’s. This is more evident on the right side. Note the separation of the big toe from the others, right side greater than left.
Metatarsus adductus deformity is a forefoot which is adducted in the transverse plane with the apex of the deformity at LisFranc’s (tarso-metatarsal) joint. The fifth metatarsal base will be prominent and the lateral border of the foot convex in shape . The medial foot border is concave with a deep vertical skin crease located at the first metatarso cuneiform joint level. The hallux (great toe) may be widely separated from the second digit and the lesser digits will usually be adducted at their bases. ln some cases the abductor hallucis tendon may be palpably taut just proximal to its insertion into the inferomedial aspect of the proximal phalanx (1)
Gait abnormalities seen with this deformity include a decreased progression angle, in toed gait, excessive supination of the feet with low gear push off from the lesser metatarsals.
It is interesting to note that along with forefoot adductus, hip dysplasia and internal tibial torsion are common (2) and this patient has some degree of both.
His forefoot adductus is developmental and due to the lack of range of motion and lack of internal rotation of the lower extremities, due to the femoral retrotorsion and internal tibial torsion. If he didn’t adduct the foot he would have to change weight-bearing over his stance phase extremity to propel himself forward. Try internally rotating your foot and standing on one leg and then externally rotating. See what I mean? With the internal rotation it moves your center of gravity over your hip without nearly as much lateral displacement as would be necessary as with external rotation. Try it again with external rotation of the foot; do you see how you are more likely displace the hip further to that side OR lean to that side rather than shift your hip?So, his adductus is out of necessity.
Interesting case! When you have a person with internal torsion and limited hip internal rotation, with an adducted foot, think of forefoot adductus!
1. Bleck E: Metatarsus adductus: classification and relationship to outcomes of treatment. J Pediatric Orthop 3:2-9,1983.
2. Jacobs J: Metatarsus varus and hip dysplasia. C/inO rth o p 16:203-212, 1960
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
With all the talk on the Crossfit blog about the knees out debate, we though we would shed some light on measuring torsions, beginning with tibial torsion, since this does not seem to have been taken account of in the discussion and we feel it is germane.
Yo may have seen some of our other posts in tibial torsion here or here; this post will serve to help you measure it.
Looking at the top left picture: we can see that the axis of the tibial plateau and the transmalleolar axis (an imaginary line drawn through the medial and lateral malleolus) are parallel at birth (net angle zero) and progress to 22 degrees at skeletal maturity, resulting from the outward rotation of the tibia of about 1-1.5 degrees per year. This results in a normal external tibial version of about 17-18 degrees (you subtract 5 degrees for the talar neck angle, talked about in the link above). Note that this is the normal or ideal angle we would expect (hope?) to see. Go 2 standard deviations in either direction and we have external and internal tibial torsions.
You can go about taking this measurement in may ways; we will outline 2 of them.
In the upper left picture, we see an individual who has their knee flexed to 90 degrees over the side of a table while seated. This represents the tibial plateau angle. You the use a protractor to measure the angle between the tibial plateau and an imaginary line drawn through the medial and lateral malleoli. This is the transmalleolar angle. You then subtract 5 degrees from this number (remember the talar neck angle?) to get the angle of tibial version (or torsion).
In the lower left and right pictures, we have the patient supine with the knees pointed upward and tibial plateau flat on the table. Then, working from inferiorly, use a goniometer to measure the angle of the transmalleolar axis. Again, we subtract 5 degrees for the talar neck.
We would encourage you to read up on torsions. This post, which we wrote over a year ago, is probably one of the most important ones on tibial torsions.
Torsions. Important stuff, especially when you are talking about the axis of the knees in activities like a squat. Remember, the knee is a hinge between 2 multiaxial joints (hip and ankle) and will often take the brunt of the (patho)mechanics, as it has fewer degrees of freedom of movement. If you have external tibial torsion and you push your knees (angle your feet) out further, you are moving the knees outside the saggital plane. You have better have a very competent medial tripod! If you have internal tibial torsion, angling the feet out may be a good idea. Know your (or your patients/clients/athletes) anatomy!
The Gait Guys. Bald, Good Looking and Twisted. Here to help you navigate your way through better biomechanics.
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.
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.
Holy Hand Grenades! What kind of shoe do I put these feet in?
Take a look at these feet. (* click on each of the photos to see the full photo, they get cropped in the viewer) Pretty bad, eh? How about a motion control shoe to help things along? NOT! OK. but WHY NOT? Let’s take a look and talk about it.
To orient you:
top photo: full internal rotation of the Left leg
2nd photo: full internal rotation of the Right leg
3rd photo: full external rotation of the Left leg
last photo: full external rotation of the Right leg
Yes, this gal has internal tibial torsion (yikes! what’s that? click here for a review).
Yes, it is worse on the Left side
Yes, she has a moderate genu valgus, bilaterally.
If someone has internal tibial torsion, the foot points inward when the knee is in the saggital plane (it is like a hinge). The brain will not allow us to walk this way, as we would trip, so we rotate the feet out. This moves the knee out of the saggital plane (ie. now it points outward).
What happens when we place a motion control shoe (with a generous arch and midfoot and rearfoot control) under the foot? It lifts the arch (ie it creates supination and it PREVENTS pronation). This creates EXTERNAL rotation of the leg and thigh, moving the knee EVEN FURTHER outside the saggital plane. No bueno for walking forward and bad news for the menisci.
Another point worth mentioning is the genu valgus. What happens when you pick up the arch? It forces the knee laterally, correct? It does this by externally rotating the leg. This places more pressure/compression on the medial aspect of the knee joint (particularly the medial condyle of the femur). Not a good idea if there is any degeneration present, as it will increase pain. And this is no way to let younger clients start out their life either.
So, what type of shoe would be best?
a shoe with little to no torsional rigidity (the shoe needs to have some “give”)
a shoe with no motion control features
a shoe with less of a ramp delta (ie; less drop, because more drop = more supination of the foot (supination is plantarflexion, inversion and adduction)
a shoe that matches her sox, so as not to interfere with the harmonic radiation of the colors (OK, maybe not so much…)
Sometimes giving the foot what it appears to need can wreak havoc elsewhere. One needs to understand the whole system and understand what interventions will do to each part. Sometimes one has to compromise to a partial remedy in one area so as not to create a problem elsewhere. (Kind of like your eye-glass doctor. Rarely do they give you the full prescription you need, because the full prescription might be too much for the brain all at once. Better to see decent and not fall over, than to see perfectly while face down in the dirt.)
Want to know more? Consider taking the National Shoe Fit Certification Program. Email us for details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are the Gait Guys, and yes, we like her sox : )
Holy Late Cretaceous Therapods. Those Veliciraptors were twisted!
The dinosaur made famous by Jurassic Park (We never understood why they put this dinosaur in the movie, the Jurassic period was many millions of years earlier, but that’s another story).
Dr Ivo was able to take some pictures of a rare, preserved skeleton from Mongolia at the dinosaur museum in Fruita, CO, while visiting with his family.
These bad boys (and girls) were fast predators, and one of the things that made them that way, was the fact that they were built for speed!
Take a look at theses hips! Note the extreme retro torsioned angle of the femur heads. We remember that femoral retro torsion limits internal rotation of the hips (OK, so you don’t remember? click here for a review).
Now lets think about this. Externally rotate your thigh and lower leg. What do you notice? Hopefully you notice it puts your foot in more supination. This makes it into a more rigid lever, better for pushing off and better for sprinting!
Have you ever seen a sprinter? do they run on their toes? Is their foot more supinated? Ever see a velociraptor run? Check out this sequence from the “Dinosaur Planet” series. Remember, only their toes are on the ground and the thing that looks like a backwards knee is actually their ankle.
Since their legs are so close to the body, there is little need for internal rotation, so why not maximize the effect and assist in supination?
Wow! Are you finally convinced that torsions are cool? After all, they appear to have been around for at least the last 75 million years and probably longer.
The Gait Guys. Quarternary Geeks of the Cenozoic Era. Yes, we study dinosaur gait too…
Hmmm. We are fully internally rotating this gentleman’s lower leg (and thus hip) on each side. What can you tell us?
Look at the upper picture. Does the knee go past midline? NO! So we have limnited internal rotation of the hip. What are the possible causes?
femoral retro torsion
tight posterior capsule of hip
OA of hip
tight gluteal group (max or posterior fibers of medius)
Now line up the tibial tuberosity and the foot. What do you see? The foot is externally rotated with respect to the leg. What are the possible causes?
external tibial torsion
fracture/derangement causing this position
Now look at the bottom picture. Awesome forearm and nice choice of watch. Good thing we didn’t wear Mickey Mouse!
Look at upper leg. Hmm. Same story as the right side.
Look at the lower leg and line up the tibial tuberosity and the foot. What do you see? The foot is internally rotated with respect to the leg. What are the possible causes?
internal tibial torsion
fracture/derangement causing this position
So this individual will have very different lower leg mechanics on the right side compared to the left (external torsion right, internal left). We refere to this as “windswept” biomechanics, as it looks like the wind came in from the right and “swept” the feet together to the left.
What will this look like? Most likely increased pronation on the right and supination on the left. What may we see?
calcaneal (rearfoot) valgus on right
calcaneal (rearfoot) varum on the left
bilateral knee fall to midline
knee fall to midline on right occurring smoother than on left (the patient has an uncompensated forefoot varus bilaterally; he is already partially pronated on the right, so it may appear to be less abrupt)
toeing off in supination more pronounced on the left (due to the internal torsion and forefoot varus)
The Gait Guys. Increasing your foot and gait IQ with each and every post.
What can we learn from a trip to the museum and ancient pachyderms?
Lessons from the Denver Museum of Science and the “Mammoths and Mastodons” exhibit.
Leave it to gait nerds to notice stuff like this. These are the things that keep us up at night.
Look carefully at the last 2 pictures, especially the femurs. Besides their grandious size, what do you see. Femoral anterversion! The angle of the femur head with the shaft of the femur is quite large. We remember from our discussion of anteversion previously (see here); that femoral anteversion allows a greater amount of internal rotation of the head of the femur in the acetabulum (ie the ball in the socket).
Now look at the top picture. Besides a cross over gait that Dr Allen was quick to point out. What do you see? Ok…tremendous glutes : ). What else? Look at the second picture for a hint. You got it! Internal rotation of the legs.
Think about how pachyderms are put together compared to say, reptiles, specifically lizards. The legs are UNDER the body in the former and STICK OUT from the body in the latter. Watch them walk. The latter swing their tails and the former have the legs under their center of mass.
Extrapolate this to human gait (We know, it’s a stretch, but you have a great imagination). Some people have their weight under their body (ie, they have sufficient internal rotation of the hips to allow this; many of these folks have more anteverision than retroversion. also remember that we are speaking versions, NOT torsions here). Think about retroverted folks. Wider stance, wider gait, just like reptiles.
Ok, maybe this was a stretch, but it was cool, no?
The Gait Guys. Comparing pachyderms to humans….reallly.
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