Differences arise in the range of motion at the ankle joint complex as an individual undergoes changes related to ageing.
In two studies conducted by Nigg et al., a general decrease in the ankle range of motion was observed from early adulthood through to years 70 to 89.
Kinetic and kinematic data collected for subjects over the age of 60 years, displayed less movement in the subtalar joint than subjects of a younger age group.
Subjects of the older age group were observed to walk more slowly and exerted lower anterior-posterior forces, which can be linked to increased stiffness in the ankle and subtalar joint with age.
With muscle groups becoming less resilient to high level stress due to age, soft tissue injuries are generally more common in older individuals.
Calf strains, in particular, become more common with the phenomenon of ageing.
It is quite essential to be able to differentiate between gastrocnemius and soleus strains, as this would aid in making an accurate prognosis and in developing appropriate treatment plans.
The gastrocnemius is considered to be at a higher risk for strains because it crosses two joints (the knee and ankle) and consists of a higher density of type two fast twitch muscle fibers.
Soleus muscle injuries, tend to be less dramatic in clinical presentation and more subacute when compared to injuries of the gastrocnemius.
Flexibility of the ankle and toe joints are important for stability and recovery from trips and stumbles in order to prevent serious falls.
One of the key areas often overlooked in the treatment of falls is the loss of dorsiflexion associated with ageing, which results in an increase in hyperpronation.
Patients need to be encouraged to exercise the joints to promote increased flexibility and to build muscle strength, which is necessary for balance. This needs to be in conjunction with methods to restore optimal lower limb biomechanics.
Physical Therapy aims to improve joint and muscle function, improving the patient’s ability to walk, stand and climb stairs.
An orthotic intervention for ankle instability or to improve the range of motion at the ankle joint complex would require a thorough study of the patient’s gait pattern. This is because there would be an alteration of walking mechanics and an inability to distribute pressure normally across the plantar surface of the foot.
Postural stability is crucial to boost optimal articulation alignment which, in turn, facilitates optimal arthrokinematics of the foot and ankle.
A high-calibre orthotic, such as the MASS4D® custom orthotic, enhances balance and posture of the body by allowing for heightened proprioceptive action through the foot and lower limb, proximally to the central nervous system, throughout all types of daily activities.
Custom orthotics improve ankle range of motion by reducing the load on the soft tissue supportive structures around the ankle, by reducing compensation and by providing a stable base of support for resistance of body sway.
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