Gait analysis case study: A runner with achilles pain.
Please watch this clip a few times and pay special attention to the lateral views. This client had persistent Left Achilles pain which has improved with care and foot exercise, but is developing Left soleus pain.
Lets try something new. Lets test your gait auditory skills. Run the video and listen. Listen to the foot falls. Can you hear one foot slap harder than the other on strike ? Can you hear the right forefoot slap harder than the left ? It is there, it is subtle, keep re-running the video until you are convinced. The left foot just lands softer. Take your gait assessment to the next level, listen to your clients gait. Use all your senses. This finding should ask you to assess the anterior compartment of the right lower limb (tibialis anterior and toe extensors). And if they are not weak then you should begin to ask yourself why they may be loading the right foot abruptly. Perhaps it is because they are departing off of the left prematurely, in this case possibly because of a short leg that has a shorter stride length.
From clinical examination he has a 10mm anatomically short left leg (not worn in these videos), bilateral uncompensated forefoot varus deformities, bilateral internal tibial torsion and tibial varum ( 10 degrees Left, less on Right).
- weakness of the fourth and fifth lumbricals (small intrinsic foot muscles to the 4th and 5th toes) left greater than right. This will afford some lateral foot weakness during stance phase.
- weakness of all long toe extensors bilaterally (their weakness will allow dominance of toe flexors)
- weakness of the extensor hallucis brevis bilaterally
- weak left iliacus (a hip flexor muscle)
- slight pelvic shift to the left when testing the right abdominal external obliques
- weakness bilaterally of the quadratus femoris (a deep hip stabilizing muscle)
- weakness superior and inferior gemelli left, superior right (again, more deep hip stabilzer muscles)
So, what gives?
Did you pick up the nice ankle rocker present? There is good ankle dorsiflexion. What is missing? Look carefully at the hip (in the lateral/ side video views). There is not much hip extension going on there. So, the question is how does he get the ankle rocker he is achieving ? Look at the knees. He is getting it through knee flexion! It would be more effective and economical to achieve this kind of ankle dorsiflexion from a nice hip extension and utilize the glutes for all they can provide.
Remember, he has an uncompensated forefoot varus. This means he has trouble making the medial part of his foot tripod get to the ground. This means that the foot tripod will be challenged when the foot is grounded and when combined with the clinical foot weaknesses we noted on examination this is a foregone conclusion. With all that knee flexion which muscle will be called upon to control the foot? The soleus (which DOES NOT cross the knee).
The answer to helping this chap ? Achieve more hip extension! How? Gluteal activation through some means (acupuncuture, dry needling, MAT, K tape, rehab and motor skill patterns etc), conscious dorsiflexion of the toes, conscious activation of the glutes and anything else you might find useful from your skill set. Gain more from the hips and you will gain more control from that area and ask for the soleus to do just its small job.
Subtle? Maybe. Now that you know what you are looking at it is pretty easy isn’t it ? It’s like the “invisible gorilla in the room” we talked about in our previous Podcast. Unless someone brings it to your attention your focus will be on what you are accustomed to looking for and what you have seen before. Sometimes we just need someone to direct our vision. There is a difference between seeing something and recognizing something. In order to recognize something you have to go beyond seeing it, the brain must be engaged to process the vision.
The Gait Guys. Let us be your Peter Frampton and “Show you the Way” : )