10 ways to prevent back pain: #4 Improve Ankle Motion

10 ways to prevent back pain #4 Improve Ankle Mobility   When examining patients with low back pain most of them have a loss of upwards ankle motion called ankle dorsiflexion. Ankle dorsiflexion is the motion of our ankle bending upwards.  When performing a standard calf stretch we are working on ankle dorsiflexion. When walking we should have at least 10 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion and when running, going up a hill, or going down stairs we should have at least 20 degrees. When our ankles are tight, stiff, or just lack motion, it puts

extra stress on other areas of the body.  Our ankle and foot complex is the first thing that comes into contact with the ground when walking, so if we have a loss of motion at the ankles, the body has to make it up somewhere else.  Often this means making us overwork through the knees or low back, leading to discomfort in those areas.

Without proper ankle motion we put more stress onto the other joints of our body.  Proper ankle motion is also necessary during running and walking to be able to properly recruit our glutes (buttocks)  If we don’t have full ankle rom, we cannot get to full hip extension and therefore we don’t recruit our hip extenders (the glutes) when walking or running.  Having proper hip extension and hip strength is crucial to preventing back pain.  Click  here for our previous post on hip flexibility for preventing back pain. 

Just to rehash; A loss of ankle motion puts more stress on the joints above it and prevents us to getting to full hip extension and recruitment of our glutes. To help improve ankle dorsiflexion, add a basic calf stretch to your daily routine.  Try doing two sets of ten when taking work breaks, at the gym, or as part of your warmup. Here is a basic calf stretch we commonly prescribe in office to patients.

The average person takes around 10,000 steps a day, so you can see why it is so important to have your whole body evaluated.   A loss of motion or stability in a non-painful joint can lead to pain and discomfort in other areas with repetitive activities of daily living like walking, running, picking something up, squatting, and many others.   If you are in pain, always get evaluated by a professional who looks at the whole picture and not just the site of pain. I hope you enjoyed the blog and see you next week.

Dr. Ryan Dunn D.C.

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