Biomechanics is the science of movement of a living body, including how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to produce movement.
A podiatry biomechanical assessment involves an examination of the lower limbs, looking at their structure, alignment, and function. The assessment looks for any irregularity which may contribute to pain in your feet and lower limbs, or for abnormality which may contribute to callus or corn formation.
The foot is a complex structure of 26 different bones, 214 ligaments and 38 muscles, bearing our body weight as we walk every day.
The examination is not focused simply upon the foot but includes the pelvis, hips and knees, assessing the relationship between them. It is important to examine the lower limbs because they are closely connected and pain in one area can be due to a weakness or structural problem in another area. A biomechanical assessment forms part of a comprehensive assessment to understand pain or dysfunction in the lower limbs.
What happens during a biomechanical assessment?
During your appointment the Podiatrist will ask you detailed questions about your concern or problem and how this is affecting you. A full medical history will be taken at the start of the assessment. This will entail multiple questions being asked regarding your general health and well-being, any medications you may be taking, any previous medical or surgical interventions and also social questions such as exercise levels, alcohol consumption and smoking. This information is essential to help form a correct diagnosis and safe treatment plan. If you omit this information, there may be a delay in diagnosis or appropriate treatment. The Podiatrist will then perform a full visual examination. The Podiatrist may need to examine your feet, legs, thighs and on some occasions your back. To aid this examination it is useful to bring a pair of shorts or active wear. Please do not wear skirts or tight clothing which will impair proper visualisation.
How long does a biomechanical assessment take?
It takes between 30 minutes to one hour to complete all the tests necessary, discuss the results and advise on the recommended treatment.
What sort of treatment will I need after a biomechanical assessment?
There are many different types of recommended treatments following a biomechanical assessment, depending upon your results. All advice and treatment will be bespoke depending on the problem and general health of the patient. For example, there is a strong link between obesity and foot and leg pain. If you are over-weight, your podiatrist is likely to suggest weight-loss as part of your treatment and may refer you to the local dietetics team for nutritional and dietary advice.
For people who have good structural foot mechanics, the podiatrist may advise on suitable footwear in order to reduce the risk of foot problems. Simple changes such as wearing structured supportive shoes such as sports trainers can be very effective and ensuring the correct fit of footwear can be crucial for normal foot function.
For many biomechanical problems, there is frequently a combination of tight and or weak muscles contributing to pain. Almost always, a structured exercise programme involving stretching and strengthening exercises will be provided. It is crucial that if you are provided with exercises, that you fully engage with them to stand the best chance of resolving your pain.
If the podiatrist believes that your mechanics could be contributing to your injury or pain, insoles / orthotics can be prescribed. These are similar to spectacles for your eyes, in that the prescription and style for these will depend on what the treatment goals are. These may be off the shelf or custom made depending on the individual requirements of the patient.
If a biomechanical assessment indicates that surgery may be necessary to resolve pain or correct deformity, our podiatrists work closely with the Podiatric and Orthopaedic Surgery teams and can refer into these teams for an opinion. By working alongside surgeons, we ensure conservative approaches are used, where appropriate, but can offer surgical treatment when required.
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