Increase Ankle Dorsiflexion with Myofascial Release

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Shannon Turley, the Stanford University Strength Coach, was profiled in New York Times and Bleacher Report articles recently. When asked what N.F.L. scouts should focus on, he said,ankle mobility, the ankle begins the chain of movement.  Ankle mobility is often limited in athletes without the athlete even being aware of it.  Dorsiflexion is the movement of the foot towards the shin.  If one side is particularly limited then it is vital to address this issue before the body starts to compensate, which can cause dysfunction elsewhere.

A 2014 study of infantry recruits doing intense training found a link between decreased ankle dorsiflexion (with knee bent) and Achilles tendinopathy.  Backman et al tested basketball players for decreased ankle dorsiflexion, the players with decreased dorsiflexion were much more likely to have knee pain within a year.

The basics:

  1. how to  check if normal using a reliable lunge test
  2. self treatment using a foam roller
  3. mobilization drill
  4. manipulation and mobilization were found effective in this study
  5. using a strap to pull the talus was more effective than static stretching.
  6. PNF stretching which a recent study concluded was very effective after a 6 week program.
  7. prone scoop manipulation works every time, I teach this one at my workshops! 

Myofascial soft tissue therapy is an effective way to treat the muscles and ligaments that restrict ankle dorsiflexion. To address poor dorsiflexion it is essential to know the functional anatomy of the leg and ankle in detail.  Skilled myofascial therapy involves isolating each individual muscle and improving the range of motion of the relevant joints.  Manipulation on the crural joint is a quick an effective skill all manual therapists should possess. 

Of course the soleus often restricts dorsiflexion, but this study demonstrated why treating the gastrocnemius in isolation is wise.   It is important also to check and treat the tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus, and the flexor digitorum longus when needed  Each muscle can be tested to see if it is a limiting factor in dorsiflexion, and should always be ruled out.

For more fitness, rehab, and wellness news, follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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I have treated the public and professional athletes for 19 years, using soft tissue work, Chiropractic, and prescribing the latest research based rehabilitation. I teach workshops in the North East of England to health professionals.