By, Amy Stein, DPT and Fiona McMahon, DPT
Our ankles function to help us do simple tasks from walking down the hall, climbing stairs to advanced tasks like cutting during a high level soccer game. Ankles need two things to do their job well. They need stability to allow us to transfer our weight onto them and mobility to absorb forces, like little shock absorbers when we move. A deficit in either one of these area’s can affect our ability to efficiently do certain activities and may cause pain in the foot and ankle itself or further up the leg. As physical therapists we evaluate and treat ankle and foot issues to get the athlete or non-athlete back to optimal function.
Get this, the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles in it. There is a lot to look at and unfortunately, a lot that can go wrong with the foot. As physical therapists and especially here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we like to use a systematic approach when evaluating the foot and ankle. We look at the foot’s range of motion (how far it can move), its strength, it’s ability to move well (motor control), and whether or not something’s not moving well when it comes to the soft tissue or the joint of the foot. If something’s up with any of these categories we open our tool box and treat using functional manual therapy, neuromuscular and postural re-education and self care!
Things we look at
- In standing we assess the patient’s baby squat ( or plié, as our former dancers would call it) we are looking to see if there is an issue with the tissue of the foot’s ability to stretch and fold
- Heel raise: We look at our patient’s’ ability to go up on their toes, aberrant or weird motions tell us about motor control, strength, and joint mobility.
- Arm Swing: We promise this isn’t to make our patients look silly. It allows us to assess pronation and supination, which are super important motions of the foot.
- End feel: We will passively move the patient’s foot and ankle through its range of motion to assess how the joint feels. It can tell us a lot about what’s wrong and where it’s coming from.
- Palpation: We pride ourselves on our hands at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. One of our PT’s calls it our “brain hands”. Palpation can reveal a ton about what’s going on in the foot.
These are all pretty basic first steps when assessing our patients. They are the starting point, but by no means the finish line. Once we get the big picture we will refine our examination to see what’s going on when our patients are doing their specific sport or activity. Once we get a good handle on what’s going on we select the most appropriate techniques for our patients. Each patient is different and one basic protocol for everyone isn’t how we roll at BBPT. If you think your ankles or feet could use a little extra TLC, book an appointment today. To get the ball rolling, check out our blog written by our therapist, Denise Small .