At The Biomechanics Lab, our vision is to facilitate your path to better health so you can reach your full potential. To help us do that, we used 3D Biomechanics technology to inform all the decisions we make.
From previous blogs on our site, we know that 3D Gait Analysis is non-invasive assessment of how you walk, run or jump, and by performing an analysis, we obtain a great deal of kinematic and kinetic data about you.
However, all the data in the world is useless if you can’t use it in the right way.
How do we use 3D gait data to inform your management?
At The Biomechanics lab, we use 3D biomechanics to inform our treatment. What we mean is that we use the gait data as the basis for our treatment prescription.
When we have the level of information that we can obtain from performing a 3D gait analysis, we really have all the information we need to be able to make an informed decision in the best interests of our patients.
There are four key ways in which we use 3D Biomechanical data to inform the management of our patients. By no means is this list complete and any of our podiatrists, physios or biomechanists are happy to speak to you about any of your needs.
4 Ways to Use Biomechanical Data
Using 3D gait analysis to design strength and conditioning programs
The information we collect in a 3D gait analysis relating to the range of motion of a joint and the velocity of movement allows us to better select exercises to improve functional control of movement and to prescribe load to increase muscle strength. We also obtain additional
information as to the control of our joints through the entire range of motion.
So what do we do with this? Some common examples included:
- Targeting posterior chain stability and gluteal muscle strength in patients who are shown to fall into a lot of anterior pelvic tilt or drop their hip on one side
- Increasing quadriceps strength (and the ratio between quads and hamstrings) in patients who have high breaking forces. This is really important in running and landing based movements. But it is also really important in patients who suffer from conditions such as hip/knee arthritis or anterior knee pain where there is a high amount of load applied to the joint.
- Increasing the strength of the calf muscle to either
- Control how the foot is loaded (eccentric muscle phase)
- Improve the ability of the calf to generate propulsive power (concentric muscle phase)
- Increasing tibialis posterior muscle strength in patients who have flat feet, display a high amount of pronation through midstance or do not have the ability to re-supinate through propulsion.
- Increasing peroneal muscle strength in patients who have lateral ankle stability or high arch feet. This prevents them from sustaining lateral ankle injuries and reduce the amount of loading on the bones in the outside of the foot (common areas for stress fractures).
In addition to designing strength and conditioning programs, one of the benefits of 3D gait analysis technology is the ability to test a patient at baseline or the commencement of treatment and then re-test them after the initial treatment phase (often at 12 weeks).
This allows us to monitor how you progress overtime and ensures that we are achieving the functional outcomes with treatment that were intended. This level of transparency keeps us on our toes, ultimately being accountable to the decisions we make. This is particularly important when making decisions about post-operative management or return to sport following injury.
Using 3D gait analysis to prescribe footwear
Footwear is so much more than a covering for our foot that needs to look good. By virtue of its location between the foot and the ground, it is a medium which needs to attenuate force and provide stability to the foot.
Based on research and working with global footwear manufacturers, we know footwear can have a large impact on the function of the foot and ankle when we walk. Some examples of where we use specific footwear to treat complex foot and ankle problems include:
- Changing the materials of the midsole to improve comfort in patients who have a very high rate of force loading.
- Using specific geometric footwear designs to improve the stability of the foot during loading and midstance.
- Using specific rocker forefoot designs to improve function in patients with reduced joint motion as a result of arthritis or in those patients who have high propulsive forces causing problems such as neuromas or plantar plate injuries.
Based on our experience working in footwear design, we have also developed analytical processes to understand how the foot moves inside the shoe. This relies on holes cut in the shoe upper to allow gait analysis markers to be applied directly on the skin surface through the shoe upper. Although this can’t be done in your own shoes more obvious reasons (unless you need some air-conditioning), we have a range of lab shoes that allow us to better appreciate the function of the foot when wearing shoes. This is really important when considering the need for / quantifying how foot orthotics work.
Using 3D gait analysis to design custom orthotics
Custom foot orthotics are often used by podiatrists to improve pain and restore function in patients with complex foot and ankle injuries. They have also been shown to be effective in improving symptoms associated with knee and hip arthritis, anterior knee pain and low back pain.
The way we design orthotics is to influence the forces applied to the foot. We take a 3D scan that captures the unique geometry of your foot, and we can then use design modifications to apply forces (called orthotic reaction forces) to influence the function of the foot when you walk, run or jump. Yet, given standard analyses cannot measure force, without 3D gait data, there is no way to precisely understand what forces are applied to the foot and leg, where those forces are applied and how large they are. With the use of 3D gait analysis, we can measure the exact forces applied to your body. And not just the vertical force (i.e. the biggest force and one directed up on your body), but also the breaking force applied when you hit the ground and the medial force trying to roll your foot. We can also measure the centre of pressure or more simply, the position at which the force is applied to your foot.
Now that we have a clear picture of the forces applied to the body, we can use orthotic design principles to target and manipulate the forces applied to the body. And we can then measure those outcomes in the lab, ensuring we remain accountable to the outcomes we wish to achieve.
Using 3D gait analysis to design appropriate foot & ankle surgery
Where possible we provide our patients with all the possible conservative options viable to them. In some situations we identify in the gait analysis that there is no function or control of a particular joint(s) and despite any best efforts in strength and conditioning or foot and orthotic prescription, the function of your foot is unlikely to improve without surgery. In this case, we work with our team of surgeons to develop the most appropriate procedure for you. We can also use the gait data as a baseline measurement to compare to in the rehab phase that occurs post-operatively.
We also work with a lot of patients who see us as an initial patient after they have had surgery or had a complex traumatic event where surgery may not be possible or indicated. And as much as we have discussed individual applications above, there is not a better or more suited patient for 3D gait analysis that one with a complex history of trauma or surgery that has caused a significant alteration he original function of the foot and ankle. In this situation, we can use the data to optimise the current situation and make the most out of the situation we are presented with.