Mobility at the lower extremities.
I've been told many times that when looking for the source of an injury, an important first step is to look at the areas above and below where the pain is being felt. As I continue my exploration of the knee joint I have been lead to consider what's going on up and downstream at the ankle and hips and how the unfortunate old knee might cop the grunt of a dysfunction at either end. As a disclaimer, there are many ways that a knee injury might occur, this is just some thoughts on how a lack of mobility in one area might lead to a compensation in another.
So far my thoughts have lead me to the foot and ankle and I think there is a lot to be said about this. I heard Katy Bowman quote that 25% of the entire body’s muscles and bones can be found from the ankle down. That’s a lot when you consider that I am 6”0 tall weighing roughly 165 pounds and 25% of my physical form sits within the surface area of about 1 foot. It carries, all 165 pounds and propels me with each step that I make. That’s a pretty important job and if the mechanism isn’t working right, something upstream is probably going to fail. By the way, if you didn't already click the link above, here it is again. Follow it to find 30 days of hip and ankle openers that will help you work through this very topic you are reading about right now!
So my girlfriend still has a torn ACL from jumping over a fence in the Spartan Race we competed in a month ago. I want her to be using her foot and moving her ankle while she is rehabilitating. I want to work on restoring and maintaining mobility so that when she begins to support her own body weight again and move herself through life, she has the appropriate platform to move from. One which is strong and mobile so that the body up stream is free to move as it needs without compensations.
I was thinking about this in the shower and how it is probably a good idea for me to be considering my own ankle mobility and whether or not it could be improved on. I know squatting with just my body weight has done a great deal for my own mobility, but how does one ankle compare to the other? That must be important too, considering that if one ankle has less range of motion or less mobility than the other, then that would probably send some kind of rotation or sheer force up my body, into my knees and even all the way up to my neck. So standing in the shower, I lifted one foot off the ground and did some simple ankle rolls. A few gentle ones to warm up and then a few that were a little more intense. With clenched fists by my side, I pushed for bigger and bigger circles, rolling them more slowly the harder I pushed. This whole process reminded me of a well respected system that I have no current training in called Functional Range Conditioning (FRC). Essentially what this system involves is creating greater ranges of motion and increasing the ability to control and apply force at these end ranges in an attempt to build strength and avoid injury.
If you currently have any kind of joint issues, I believe that after restoring normal posture and creating maximal expansion and length of the axial skeleton (spine and neck) through Foundation Training, FRC is a great next system to explore. The video above shows just one example of how this system works and how to apply it to the knee and ankle joint.