Updated: 2019, Jul 29

An Overview of Dorsiflexion

ankle dorsiflexion

Introduction

The act of walking is what takes your body from point A to point B. It is your brain that creates this idea, sends the message to your legs and the legs are the ones that do the work. Well, this is the simplest way to describe what happens. But what really happens is the control being produced in the brain, then sent through the nerves to the proper muscles on the legs which with the help of the ligaments, joints and bones move your body in the environment.

What we want to concentrate on in this today ‘s article is the movement known as dorsiflexion. Perhaps this is the first time that you are meeting with this term and perhaps it is not, whatever the case is here, we will cover all the important details that will help you understand what dorsiflexion really is.

What does the Medical Term Dorsiflexion Mean?

The medical term dorsiflexion is a term used to describe the movement of flexion of the foot at the ankle. But what is a dorsiflexion movement? The movement of flexion or in this case dorsiflexion is a movement that brings the fingers on the foot closer to the shin. This movement decreases the angle between the dorsum of the foot, which is the front side of the foot, and the leg.

So what is ankle dorsiflexion? The ankle dorsiflexion is an essential movement for the act of walking. It is the movement that lifts up the front part of the foot away from the floor so that falls and injuries are avoided. Dorsiflexion is also present in the wrist of the hand as well as in the small joints in the fingers of the hands and feet. However, what interest us the most is the act of dorsiflexion in the foot.

What Muscles are Used for Dorsiflexion?

As you may know, there are different groups of muscles in the human body. They belong to certain groups according to the place in the body where they are but most importantly according to the function that they have. Knowing that you probably can guess that not all muscles can complete the act of dorsiflexion. And that is true! There are certain groups of muscles in the human body known as dorsiflextors and these are the muscles that are responsible for this specific act. If it comes to their impairment, this movement will not be possible to be completed.

So which muscle is primarily responsible for dorsiflexion? This would be a muscle that is a part of the group of dorsiflextors. The main dorsiflexor is known as the tibialis anterior muscle. The tibialis anterior muscle is located on the front side of the side, mostly located near the skin. It is innervated by the peroneal nerve which is a branch of the biggest nerve in the human body – the sciatic nerve.

This muscle has two main functions and those are dorsiflexing and inverting the foot. Other muscles that take a part in this group are extensors of the fingers of the feet – the extensor digitorium longus muscle and the peroneus tertius muscle. So the next question would it be – which muscles do not dorsiflex the foot?

Which Muscle does not Dorsiflex the Foot?

You can probably guess this one on your own, even without possessing any medical knowledge. The answer is simple. Since there are two opposite movements that we are most interested right now – dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, it is understandable that the group of muscles that completes the movement of plantar flexion is the one that will prevent the movement of dorsiflexion.

Plantar flexion is the movement that increases the angle between the dorsum of the foot and the shin. It is the movement that helps the foot to reach and stay on the ground in the act of walking. The main muscle that is responsible for the movement of plantar flexion is the triceps surae muscle with two of its heads – the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle.

Apart from this muscle, in the group of plantar flexion, there are also the peroneus longus and brevis muscles, the tibialis posterior muscle, the flexor hallucis longus muscle and the flexor digitorium longus muscle. These are all muscles that prevent the dorsiflexion movement during an exact faze of walking the same as the dorsiflextors prevent the movement of plantar flexion during an exact faze of walking.

What is the Opposite of Dorsiflexion?

This is pretty easy with all the information that we know about dorsiflexion and plantar flexion until now. But this might as well be a quick review. Let ‘s review – dorsiflexion is the movement that lifts the foot from the floor. Opposite to the movement of dorsiflexion is the movement of plantar flexion.

The plantar flexion is the movement that returns the foot to the floor, to say it in the most simple way. Understandably, the dorsiflextors are the opposite of the plantar flexors and yet, the existence of these two different movements and muscle groups is what ables the whole act of walking.

Which Muscles May Have to Compensate for Lack of Dorsiflexion?

In cases where the dorsiflextors are impaired such as conditions as paralysis of the dorsiflextors, Foot drop, contractures of the dorsiflextors and so on, the act of walking would involve a great risk of falls and injuries since there would be no healthy muscle that can raise the front part of the foot off the floor during walking.

In this case, what most patients do is raise their knees higher than normal in order to lift their foot from the floor. For this movement, it is the hip flexors that are responsible for. This is a large group that involves most of the muscle around the hip. And this would be the muscle group responsible for a compensation in case of a lack of dorsiflexion.

Conclusion

Learning how your body works is never a boring subject, for those who are involved in some branch of medicine or not. Our body is so fascinating in so many ways that you as soon as you start reading up you learn that everything has its own special place and function that cannot be really replaced. And it is same with the muscles. Every muscle has a special function thanks to which each part of the body is moved in the way that we want.

Thanks to the muscles we get to move around, don ‘t we? And that is how we got to talking about the act of dorsiflexion. Described as an act that lifts up the foot from the floor, the dorsiflexion is an essential movement that ables you to walk. And regarding the movement, there is a whole muscle group responsible for this movement known as the dorsiflexors.

The head of dorsiflexors known as tibialis anterior muscle is the one that makes sure no falls will occur during walking. But there are certain fazes where this movement needs to be stopped. And that is where the plantar flexors take place with their movement known as plantar flexors. Everything adds us, does it not? Well, that is the way that our muscular system works!

Read Next – Ankle Pain: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Evan Jensen, CPT

Evan Jensen is a renowned American Nutritionist, Diet Expert and health writer. He has a master’s degree in journalism, with more

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