Relieve Health Group

Relieve Health Group

The human foot is a complex structure, made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It’s no surprise, then, that foot and ankle pain is a common complaint among people of all ages. One potential cause of this pain is a condition known as gastrocnemius contracture, a tightening of the calf muscle that can limit the range of motion in the ankle. This condition has been the subject of several studies, and surgical treatment, specifically a procedure known as a gastrocnemius tendon recession, has been suggested as a potential solution. However, the evidence supporting this approach has been limited, with few studies using a validated measurement device or including a control group for comparison.

A recent study aimed to address these limitations by using a previously validated device to measure ankle range of motion and isolated gastrocnemius contractures in 66 patients presenting with foot or ankle pain, and comparing these measurements to those of 66 control subjects. The study also included clinical and goniometer measurements of ankle range of motion.

The results of the study were striking. The group of patients with foot and ankle pain had a mean dorsiflexion (the ability to flex the foot upwards towards the shin) of 11.6 degrees, compared with a mean of 17.2 degrees in the control group. This difference was statistically significant, suggesting that patients with foot and ankle pain do indeed have less ankle dorsiflexion than those without such pain. Interestingly, no patients in either group had less than 15 degrees of motion with the knee flexed, indicating that the gastrocnemius muscle, which crosses the knee joint, may play a significant role in this reduced range of motion.

The study also found that the difference in dorsiflexion was less when measured using a goniometer (a device used to measure joint angles) than when using the validated device. This discrepancy may be due to differences in measurement technique and the use of external landmarks, highlighting the importance of using a validated device for accurate measurements.

This study is the largest to date to use a validated measurement device and include a control group, and its findings support those of previous authors. It provides strong evidence that gastrocnemius contracture is associated with reduced ankle dorsiflexion and may be a significant factor in foot and ankle pain.

However, it’s important to note that this study is a Level II, prospective cohort study. This means that while it provides valuable evidence, it does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between gastrocnemius contracture and foot and ankle pain. Further research, including randomized controlled trials, is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the most effective treatments for this condition.

In conclusion, this study adds to our understanding of the role of the gastrocnemius muscle in foot and ankle pain. It suggests that gastrocnemius contracture may be a significant factor in this common complaint, and that surgical treatment may be a viable option for some patients. However, as with all medical decisions, it’s important for patients to discuss these findings with their healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for their individual needs.

To read the full journal article, head to

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