• Karla Wolford

Your ankle mobility effects what?!


It's 9 weeks after I've delivered my 3rd little bundle of joy and the OB gives me the okay to resume workouts. "Finally! let's get back to my pre-baby body" I think to myself. After all, I've come back from two other babies already, have run 1/2-marathons between each of them and got back to my goals. As you can imagine this was a bit of wishful thinking mixed in part with obliviousness and a dash of ignorance. Thankfully not ignorant enough to tell myself, "I need to progress slowly, just like before"....but this is not like before. This is harder! Like, I can't climb a flight of stairs without heavy breathing, harder!! And i'm not making the gains as quickly as I did prior. The little physical therapy voice in my head says, "it'll come, learn where you're at and start from there". The athlete in me says "push it and let's do this mama"! Thank goodness there's only a dash of ignorance.

Learning where you're at on a functional scale is important, not only for the progression of your fitness journey BUT to avoid future injury. Take my post-baby rehab for example; If I had immediately returned to running as I did before baby #3 I would have probably injured myself. Why? Naturally, my body was not ready for the demands of running. This is no different from someone who does little to no exercising but then decides to take up weight training because their doctor told them they needed to "get healthier". It's also pretty easy to take up running, all you need are tennis shoes and a decent day. It's no wonder we are seeing a linear acceleration in exercise-related injuries over the last 10 years!

Now let's be clear. I'm not telling people to avoid starting an exercise program because there are risks. In fact, I think not having an exercise regimen is more risky!! But it's important to know where you're at on a physical scale so that you know where to start and to reduce your risk for injury. Your musculoskeletal health is just as important as your annual wellness screen. A red flag in your movement screen could mean that you have a mobility problem OR strength problem that should be addressed before injury occurs.

Here’s a visual example: ankle bending is a crucial component to many of your daily tasks. The picture on the left (descending stairs) requires at least 10 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion. In order to squat to a 90 degree hip angle or lower while keeping the heels down, it requires nearly 40 degrees. The picture on the right is a common exercise known as the overhead squat. Well guess what? you need the same motion to adequately kneel, squat and sit cross-legged (Hemmerich, 2006). One of the most common problems I see in terms of foot/ankle but especially knee and hip pain is a lack of this ankle motion. Some people are stuck at neutral (no ankle bend). What happens to those people when they try to go down stairs or sit on the chair? (hint: compensations!!) The heel would have to lift quicker which leads to an earlier bend at the knee while also trying to control your body weight.


Where do you start?

1. Screening! Movement screens are designed to assess 7 fundamental movements from head to toe which screens your mobility and strength, to determine if it is adequate enough for your activity. More than parts, it looks at HOW you move to determine the true source of your pain and compensations.

2. Awareness to correct: Receiving the screening and understanding its results provides you with a plan. It makes you aware of what you should stretch/mobilize or strengthen or even what to avoid when exercising.

Unfortunate Truths

1. Unfortunately insurance does not pay for this. This is preventive and considered wellness which your insurance provider frowns upon

2. What works for someone else might not work for you. If you experience pain in a certain area and your friend did certain exercises which really helped him, this may not yield the same result for you. The screen is excellent at zoning in on impairments that are specific to YOUR body and movements

3. Compensations take time to yield pain. These pains also come out of nowhere, no trauma or particular incident. This is because your body is fantastic at altering your motions to allow you to do what you need to do. No ankle motion? It'll gladly take it from the knee without you ever being aware of it. And it's not until there's enough stress on those parts that you will start to experience pain.


Thanks for tuning into today's blog. If you'd like to know more about C.O.M.P.E.T.E Physical Therapy & Wellness in Moorhead, MN and our athlete screens, you can contact us (701) 248-6689 or email Dr. Lizette Sunde at drsunde@competept.com


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