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Ankle Dorsiflexion - Essential for Optimal Balance and Proprioception
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Sep 19, 2016
Dorsiflexion describes flexing your ankle joint up toward your head - it's the opposite of plantar flexion, which is what your ankles do when you stand on your tip toes.
Your ankles dorsiflex with every step you take, be it while walking or running. Ankle dorsiflexion is what allows your toes to clear the ground as your back leg swings in front of you and your heel touches the ground to begin your next stride.
Unless we actively work on maintaining optimal dorsiflexion in our ankles, we lose some of our natural range over time; my feeling is that gradual loss of dorsiflexion is one of several reasons why our sense of balance tends to diminish with age.
Thankfully, there are simple ways to improve and maintain ankle dorsiflexion, as shown in this video:
The idea is to sit on the ground with the heel of one leg close to your pelvis, and to support your weight with your arms and opposite leg while you lean your trunk over your dorsiflexed ankle, gently inducing more dorsiflexion. Be sure to keep your heel on the ground.
Once you become comfortable with this, you can progress to lifting the knee of the opposite leg off the ground to apply more of your body weight to the ankle that you are working on. And to take it another level, you can lift the other leg entirely off the ground.
In all of these positions, once you reach your end range of dorsiflexion, you can use your body weight to induce short amplitude pulses to further improve ankle dorsiflexion.
Working on dorsiflexion will help keep your Achilles tendon and soleus muscle fibers healthy. It will also help maintain optimal capacity for movement within your proximal tibiofibular joint - lack of movement in this joint can be a cause of discomfort during knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion.
Working on ankle dorsiflexion will improve balance and proprioception at any age. It will also improve your ability to do different varieties of squats and hip mobility exercises to improve functional strength of your lower extremities.
For an overview of exercise progressions that you can work at to improve your mobility and balance in a systematic way, please feel free to visit our Mobility Exercise Progressions page here:
For some suggestions on how to set up a simple workout area at home, please feel free to view:
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