Dorsiflexion sounds like a complex medical term, but it simply means flexing your foot upward, similar to how it would bend if you were climbing a very steep hill. When you perform dorsiflexion with your foot, you are drawing your toes closer to your body, which stretches your Achilles tendon to its peak length.
While dorsiflexion is required to perform all kinds of everyday movements (e.g., walking, running, squatting, climbing stairs, getting out of a chair, etc.), it can also be a source of pain or injury if it’s not done correctly. Below is a closer look at how dorsiflexion might be causing your foot and ankle injuries.
Imagine trying to climb a flight of stairs while wearing ski boots–this paints a good picture of how important dorsiflexion really is. Studies have shown that people who have limited ankle dorsiflexion can suffer from a host of foot, ankle, and knee injuries. The reason for this is that when your foot and ankle operate within a limited range of motion, it puts extra strain on other parts of the body in order to compensate for the limited mobility.
For example, one study published by the National Institutes of Health found that limited ankle dorsiflexion increased the risk of mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy (i.e., chronic injury of the Achilles tendon) in military recruits. Without proper dorsiflexion, other muscles in the foot and leg take on more strain than what they were intended to bear, which increases the risk factor for a host of foot, ankle, and even knee injuries.
Hyper-dorsiflexion is essentially the opposite of limited dorsiflexion. You can sustain an injury via hyper-dorsiflexion when your toes are forced towards your shin in a manner that’s well beyond their normal range of motion.
For example, a football player might get unexpectedly tackled from behind, causing his body to fall forward while one of his feet are still planted. This closes the angle between the top of his foot and his shin, creating hyper-dorsiflexion (and probably a lot of pain). High ankle sprains and strained or ruptured Achilles tendons are common injuries associated with hyper-dorsiflexion.
If you’re suffering from a foot or ankle injury due to limited dorsiflexion or hyper-dorsiflexion, be sure to consult with a qualified podiatrist. He/she will be able to thoroughly assess the problem and prescribe effective treatment and/or therapy options that will get you on the road to recovery.