Tag Archives: biomechanical assessment

Biomechanics and musculoskeletal assessment – a guest blog by Jeremy Ousey MSc MCPod

Biomechanics and musculoskeletal assessment

As part of working in private practice I regularly visit online forums for patients with common conditions – such as plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma and shin splints.

I frequently read statements similar to “my friend said I need a biomechanics assessment” or “you need to go to the musculoskeletal clinic” or “find someone to do a musculoskeletal assessment”.

Great buzz words that sound impressive and potentially complicated – but what do they actually mean? What is involved?

As a professional who does both musculoskeletal and biomechanical assessments I know what they mean to me, but what do they mean to my patients?

Certainly, when your pain is a mystery and it isn’t getting better, you need to see someone who has a special interest and intimate understanding of the form and function of the body. It can sound like there’s some mystical excitement and curiosity about the process but these assessments can provide the answer to your problems.

What is the difference between musculoskeletal and biomechanical?

Musculoskeletal assessments

These are primarily focussed on the diagnosis and treatment of a condition.

Your clinician will identify the region of the body affected and then palpate (manually explore) the structures in that area to see if they can reproduce the pain. Once identified, and depending on the level of pain, they can then test the joints, muscles and tendons supporting it to see how normal function has been affected.

Musculoskeletal assessment typically involves taking a clinical history, clinical assessment with palpation, clinical tests and may utilise diagnostic tests such as imaging, injections and trial interventions.

Conditions that are likely to benefit most from a musculoskeletal assessment are:

  • Plantar fasciitis and heel pain
  • Morton’s neuroma and metatarsalgia
  • Achilles tendinitis

Biomechanical assessments

These are more movement focussed and look at the way that your appendage/limb/body moves and functions.

It doesn’t necessarily look for the specific anatomy causing pain but the interaction of your body as a whole, the idea being that more global information can be integrated to identify the mechanical source of your pain.

A biomechanical assessment may involve the use of gait and movement analysis and occasionally force plates and in-shoe pressure analysis (however this is rarely required). Conditions that lend themselves to biomechanical assessments are:

  • Shin pain (shin splints)
  • Recurrent stress fractures
  • Tendon pain when running
  • Knee pain
  • Hip pain
  • Arthritis

When is each used?

This is where science and art meet.

Musculoskeletal assessment tends to be used to inform the need for a biomechanical assessment.

The musculoskeletal assessment looks to present a diagnosis for the pain, identify what may be related to and causing that pain, and then to strengthen or offload associated structures reducing pain and promoting healing.

Biomechanical assessment focuses in on the movements of the body and how they might cause pain.

Biomechanical assessment is most effective when one gets the same recurring pain that is not due to lifestyle choices or where the pain that you get is not enough to stop the activities you enjoy (such as running) but is enough to reduce that enjoyment.

What is the outcome of each assessment type?

Well, the outcomes can be quite similar. The recommendation following either assessment can include

  • Semi-bespoke or prescribed bespoke orthotics
  • Rehabilitative stretches and exercises.
  • Footwear advice or modifications
  • Prescription medication
  • Advice on taping and braces
  • Gait re-training.

Does it matter which assessment you book for?

Only if the clinic you go to labels them differently, however the clinician that you see should be able to perform both and direct your appointment as required.

It tends to be that the majority of people have an appointment that combines both, depending on time. This allows for components of each to be used as is necessary.

My advice however would be that starting with an initial consultation with a specialist and then allowing them to guide you in the direction will give you the best results.

About Jeremy Ousey MSc MCPod

Jeremy Ousey  is an HCPC registered Podiatrist and CASE qualified sonographer.

Having worked in podiatric surgical units, physiotherapy and multi-disciplinary practices, he takes a multi-faceted and patient-centred approach to care. With a bachelors in Podiatry, postgraduate degrees in podiatric sports medicine and medical ultrasound and a masters in the theory of podiatric surgery he allows evidence to guide his treatment plans.

Jeremy lectures on heel pain, extra-corporeal shockwave therapy, musculoskeletal examination, treatment of the foot and ankle including management of ankle sprains and verruca needling.

His interests are in the surgical management of skin lesions, nail surgery, musculoskeletal and biomechanical evaluation, acute and chronic sports injuries, tendinopathies, diagnostic ultrasound and surgical management of foot and ankle pathology

If you would like any more information or to book an appointment with Jeremy then please call Maidenhead Podiatry & Chiropractic Clinic on 01628 773588 or email info@maidenheadpodiatry.co.uk

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thin layer of tough connective tissue supporting the arch of the foot.

Repeated microscopic tears of the plantar fascia cause pain, usually in the heel and is one of the most common foot disorders encountered by Podiatrists.

It has been estimated that over two million people each year receive treatment for heel pain, which affects as much as 10% of the population during the course of a lifetime and is present in both the athletic and non-athletic.

Heel pain can affect anyone from the age of 8 to 80, but generally affects those over 40 years of age and does not seem to be gender specific and affects both feet in up to a third of cases.

How do I know if I have plantar fasciitis?

To be sure, visit a Podiatrist and discuss your symptoms for an accurate assessment.

However the following is a guide to the classic symptoms of plantar fasciitis and gives an idea what your Podiatrist will ask about.

A careful description of the pain is essential including time of day when pain occurs, current footwear, activity level both at work and at leisure, and any history of injury.

The most commonly stated complaints are pain on getting out of bed, after a long period of sitting, and at the beginning of weight-bearing activities such as walking.

The most severe pain in the morning occurs within the first 50–100 steps and then decreases for ordinary walking.

As the day progresses, pain gradually increases continuing even after physical activities have ceased.

Pain frequently originates in the underside of the heel, sometimes slightly towards the inner side, but may not have a clear focus.

Frequently there is no clear ‘event’ which started the pain.

The pain may be worse when the area is cold or contracted.

The nature of the pain has been described as burning, aching, and occasionally stabbing.

Runners may experience pain at the beginning of the run going off during the activity, and increasing afterwards at rest.

What causes it?

There are a number of possible causes for plantar fasciitis and they often work in combination.

Tightness of the foot and calf, improper athletic training, stress on the arch, weakness of the foot, flat foot, and inappropriate shoes that don’t fit and don’t offer good support are potential causes.

Certain play or work actions or overuse (running too fast, too far, too soon) may hurt the plantar fascia.

People with low arches, flat feet or high arches are at increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

What do I need to do to treat it?

Symptoms usually resolve more quickly when the time between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment is as short as possible.

If treatment is delayed, the complete resolution of symptoms may take 6-18 months or more.

Typically treatment begins by correcting training errors, rest, use of ice after activity, shoe evaluation, a stretching (see bottom of page) and strengthening program and orthotics.

Shockwave can bring rapid relief when recovery is delayed.

(Radial) Shockwave is a tried, tested and well-researched treatment used in physiotherapy since the 1990s.

It has gained popularity in podiatry due to its effectiveness.

Of all these stretching and increase in flexibility of the calf or calves is the most important and is key to a successful resolution.

What is an orthotic?

An orthotic is a specialised insole designed to make the foot operate in a neutral position.

For people suffering with plantar fasciitis the insole will correct the pronation which is commonly associated with the condition.

Pronation is the rolling inwards of the foot during walking or standing which can exacerbate the condition.

Depending on the degree of correction required, there are a number of options available, from off the peg – one size fits all, heat mould-able to cast orthotics.

Your Podiatrist will discuss with you the best option to suite your condition.

How long will it take for it to go?

There is no set time for this condition to be corrected. Some people make surprisingly quick recoveries, while others notice a slower but steady progress.

Shockwave can bring rapid relief when recovery is delayed.

As a guide, between one and three months, but if you are unsure whether your progress is sufficient, speak to your Podiatrist to see if your treatment plan can be adjusted to help.

Which stretches will help?

Stretching is an essential part of the recovery process. Here are some ideas –

Stair stretch –
  • Stand on the bottom riser of your stairs and hold on to the banister for balance.
  • Move your foot backwards until only the balls of your feet are on the stair & your heels are in fresh air.
  • Slowly lower your heels until you feel the stretch in your calves.
  • Hold this position for a slow count of six.
  • Do not bounce at the bottom of the stretch as this will not improve flexibility.
  • Return to your original position and repeat ten times.
  • For best results this exercise is best performed slowly and carefully.
Standing stretch
  • Stand an arms-length from a wall.
  • Place your right foot half a metre behind your left.
  • Slowly and gently bend your left leg forward.
  • Keep your right knee straight and your right heel on the ground.
  • Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and release. Repeat three times.
  • Reverse the position of your legs, and repeat.
  • Do not bounce at the top of the stretch as this will not improve flexibility
Seated Towel Stretch
  • Fold a towel lengthwise to make an exercise strap.
  • Sitting, place the folded towel across and around the arch of each foot in turn.
  • Grab the ends of the towel with both hands.
  • Gently pull the tops of your feet toward you at the same time trying to straighten your leg.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.

If you would like to make an appointment for a bio-mechanical assessment call one of our receptions on 01628 773588 or if you would like more information or further explanation please call to speak to one of our Podiatrists.