Maximizing Dorsiflexion for Optimal Lower Body Function: A Comprehensive Guide

By: Russell Kowalinski | Posted: 05/23/2024

Dorsiflexion is a fundamental yet often overlooked motion in lower body functioning. It's not just about bringing your foot and shin closer together; it's about ensuring proper biomechanics for activities like walking, running, and bending. While it's commonly associated with foot and ankle issues, its impact extends to the knees, hips, and lower back as well.

Assessing dorsiflexion is crucial in understanding how well your lower body functions. Traditionally measured in clinics with a goniometer, we emphasize the importance of ground-based measurements. After all, it's on the ground where we move and exert force, making this method more reflective of real-world scenarios.

When dorsiflexion is limited, the next step is identifying the underlying cause. Soft tissue restrictions in the calf muscles often play a significant role. These restrictions can result from trigger points or tightness in connective tissue, including scar tissue. Our approach involves a technique we fondly refer to as "seek and destroy."

Using the shaft of a golf club, individuals can locate and alleviate trigger points and tight areas. The technique involves applying appropriate pressure to tender spots until they dissipate. We recommend incorporating this practice into your daily routine, spending a minute or two several times a day. Remember the "rule of three": address tender spots on all three surfaces of the calf (inside, outside, and backside) with three levels of pressure (light, medium, and deep) before progressing deeper.

In conjunction with seek and destroy, we prescribe a soleus stretch to target the calf effectively. This stretch, performed with the knee bent, closely mimics real-world movements. To optimize the stretch, ensure something is under your foot to isolate the force on the calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, applying noticeable but not forceful pressure, and repeat frequently throughout the day.

By integrating seek and destroy with the soleus stretch, you can effectively normalize dorsiflexion and improve lower extremity biomechanics. Prioritize these techniques to enhance your overall lower body function and alleviate associated issues in the knees, hips, and lower back. For personalized guidance and additional support, don't hesitate to reach out to your physical therapist. They can offer tailored strategies and exercises to address your specific needs and maximize your recovery and performance.

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