Bio Mechanical Evaluation
What is Podiatric Biomechanics?
Podiatric biomechanics is a specialisim concerned with preservation, restoration, and development of the function of the foot and its associated structures.
The foot is unique, intricate, and mechanically complex structure made up of 26 major bones and associated joints. The efficiency with which the foot functions when walking depends on the way in which those bones and joints move in relation to each other. Efficiency and pain-free function also depends heavily on the foot’s angle to the leg and to the ground. If things do not work well in either of these areas, painful problems may often be the result.
Biomechanics refers to the use of the mechanical methods, such as electronic pressure plates or observation, in the diagnosis and treatment of the function of the foot and leg.
What problems can occur?
Obviously the foot plays a crucial part in the process of walking and often suffers as a result of poor function. The painful foot problems that may result from inefficient function include corns and callus, painful toenails, pain in the ball of the foot, in the arch, or in the heel. Not only painful foot problems; less obvious, but very important, is the fact that inefficient foot function has an influence on other parts of the body.
A small structural or functional imbalance in the foot may often cause no foot pain at all. Instead, it may cause problems in the ankles, knees, hips, back, neck or even the jaw – all parts of the body that are connected to the feet by the skeleton. The effect may show as pain, instability, restricted movement, or in some cases, just fatigue.
How does the foot function?
Nature produced a magnificent architectural and functional design in the foot. It is intended to work efficiently under excessive loads and demands, often in extreme conditions imposed on it by footwear and the environment in which it has to work. However, impressive though it is, this complex structure’s function depends heavily on having its correct functional angles and joint movements maintained.
In walking or running, the foot needs to be flexible enough to absorb the shock of hitting the ground thousands of times a day. It also has to be firm enough not to collapse as the body’s weight moves over it at each and every step. Small wonder then, that sometimes things start to go wrong with foot function, and pain or disability results. In most cases, it is not until heavy or unusual demands are made on the feet by work, sport, injury, or simply by the passage of time, that potential weaknesses are revealed.
What is a biomechanical examination?
Podiatric biomechanics is very technical and requires a high level of skill to deal with problems of standing, walking and running. It is the use of this skill in performing a biomechanical examination that enables podiatrists to identify and treat functional faults..
A biomechanical examination involves taking a series of measurements of the feet and legs with the patient standing or lying down and may include checking joint movements and assessing muscle strength and flexibility. It will often include watching the patient walk to assess the way in which the foot works.
State Registered Chiropodists / podiatrists* may approach various parts of the biomechanical examination in different ways. Many depend entirely on their skill and experience in conducting a physical examination and use simple observation of the patient walking to arrive at their results. Others, however, may choose to use video analysis to examine the way the patient walks, computer connected insoles in shoes, or pressure plates on the floor. Much depends on the podiatrist’s personal preference.
As modern technology advances, so does the variety of new equipment available to podiatrists to gather information from a biomechanical examination. Nevertheless, the most important factor in any examination will remain the highly trained podiatrist’s professional skill in interpreting the information gathered, and using it to prescribe the specialist treatment that will most benefit the patient.
The results of a biomechanical examination enable the podiatrist to assess the positions of the feet and legs and the amount of excessive motion occurring. Once that is established, the podiatrist will be able to decide which treatment can help the feet to function more efficiently.