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Faulty movement patterns (part 1)
Movement teachers and the general public
Here i am addressing the foot and ankle in movement patterns. I tell our students that the foot and ankle are critical for proper and effective movement. If you are moving about with these areas out of neutral or optimal position then you are most porbably setting yourself up for bio-dysfunction sooner or later!
Anatomy of the ankle
Let us take a brief look at the anatomy of the ankle and lower leg. We have muscles on the lateral side of the lower leg called the Peroneals. These muscles travel along the fibula and attach underneath the foot (longus & brevis). They plantar flex (point) and evert the sole of the foot (turn sole outwards). Running along the front and medial shin is the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior. These muscles dorsi flex (curl toes to head) and invert the foot (turn sole inwards). So if you like all of these muscles are acting like a stirrup. Both sides when functioning properly keep the foot/ankle in optimal position when you contact the ground. Of course there are other muscles working in conjunction with these muscles. Try to visualise both sides working against eachother like a tug of war, with no side gaining ground on the other.
When good muscles turn bad!
There are many reasons why muscles will stop functioning properly. It could be from poor nutrition, stress, overtraining, poor techniques, lack of mobility, practising no flexibility or injury etc. You could say, overuse, misuse, disuse and abuse. So when we start using one or all these muscles in the wrong way, we set up poor movement patterns. In other words we teach these muscles to move in the wrong fashion. Now we are moving these muscles in a way that they were not designed to work, so the end result is more than likely pain and dysfunction.
One of the common outcomes can be trigger point formation in the muscles. Trigger points are highly sensitive points in a muscle that when pressed refer pain to another area close to or away from the pressed point. The trigger points will keep the local fibres in a higher state of contraction than normal. We can refer to this area as hyper-tonic. With these certain fibres working overtime, they will start to fatigue over time and by products of energy will build up in the area, making the area quite acidic (sore to touch). The opposing muscles will be in a state of reciprocal inhibition (relaxation). If we keep moving we enter into a downward spiral.
Moving out of neutral
With the trigger points dictating the firing (contraction) of the muscles, now we have poor movement patterns. As an example, when your foot contacts the ground and hyper-pronates (sole everts, medial arch drops) you will get an internal rotation of the tibia and femur at the same time. This spiral up the kinetic chain can lead to issues in the tissues further up the body (part 2). So apart from pain in the foot or ankle area, we can develope pain in any area above.
What do we do to address foot/ankle dysfunction?
You may stretch the area all you want but you will most likely just annoy the trigger points more and put them in a higher state of hyper-tonicity. This will be down to the stretch reflex mechanism built into skeletal muscles. Firstly you need to see a good qualified therapist (physio, physical etc.) who will assess you and see where your weaknesses lie. They should not only treat the trigger points but also give you effective correctional exercises or movements to combat the faulty movement patterns. This will help you get back on the road to recovery and pain free movement. Remember that your muscles could be housing trigger points right now, without you even noticing. So don't wait on pain to rear it's ugly head, get regular treatments and stay on top of bio-dysfunction. Also ask a good coach to watch you moving in training to see if your techniques need improvement.
Shane Nicoletti FFI KBI NMT