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The MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide - Part 4 - Lower Extremity

Updated: Apr 2


Two Happy People Running on a Bridge

In Part 4 of the MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide, we now spotlight the lower extremities. It is here, in the dynamic interplay of the quadriceps, hamstrings, tibialis anterior, and the muscles of the calf and foot, where the power and precision of running truly come to life.



Article Index


Anatomical Structures

Motion Specific Release

Conclusion & References

 

Quadriceps Anatomy

Quadriceps: The Stance Controllers



The quadriceps, comprising four distinct muscles, are the guardians of knee extension during stance and propel leg acceleration during the swing phase. Dysfunction in this muscle group could manifest as inadequate knee flexion during stance or a less potent swing phase, disrupting the cadence of your run.


Palpatory Clues for Quadriceps:


  • Asymmetrical Muscle Tone: A discernible disparity in muscle tone between the quadriceps of each leg may signal imbalance or dysfunction.

  • Pain upon Palpation: Discomfort or localized pain when palpating the quadriceps may hint at issues like trigger points or myofascial adhesions.

  • Restricted Fascial Glide: Limited smooth movement in the fascial layers over the quadriceps could denote fascial restrictions or adhesions.

  • Myofascial Taut Bands: Palpable, cord-like structures running along the muscle fibers may indicate chronic tension or muscle imbalance.

  • Muscle Atrophy or Hypertrophy: A significant difference in muscle mass from one leg to the other could be indicative of muscle disuse or overuse.


Visual Clues for Quadriceps:


  • Altered Knee Mechanics: Insufficient knee extension during stance or visibly reduced leg acceleration during the swing phase may hint at quadriceps weakness or dysfunction.

  • Irregular Stride Pattern: A shortened stride length or asymmetrical knee drive during running could indicate compromised quadriceps function.

  • Delayed Transition from Stance to Swing: A lag in transitioning from the stance phase to the swing phase may suggest quadriceps dysfunction.

  • Compensation Patterns: Overcompensation by other muscle groups like the hamstrings or glutes during running might point to quadriceps imbalance.

  • Inconsistent Quadriceps Contour: Visible differences in muscle contour or definition between the quadriceps of each leg could be a visual clue for muscle imbalance or dysfunction.


By understanding and identifying these palpatory and visual clues, you can take proactive steps to address quadriceps dysfunction, preserving the rhythm and efficiency of your running stride.


 

Hamstrings Anatomy

Hamstrings: The Swing Decelerators


The hamstrings, constituting three individual muscles, act as the brakes of the leg during the terminal swing phase, ensuring a smooth transition to the foot strike. Dysfunction within this muscle group could manifest as a premature or forceful foot strike, disrupting the fluidity of your stride and elevating the risk of injury.


Palpatory Clues for Hamstrings:


  • Asymmetrical Muscle Tone: A noticeable difference in muscle tone between the hamstrings of each leg might indicate imbalance or dysfunction.

  • Pain upon Palpation: Discomfort or localized pain when palpating the hamstrings may hint at issues like trigger points or myofascial adhesions.

  • Restricted Fascial Glide: Limited smooth movement in the fascial layers over the hamstrings could denote fascial restrictions or adhesions.

  • Myofascial Taut Bands: Palpable, cord-like structures running along the muscle fibers may indicate chronic tension or muscle imbalance.

  • Muscle Atrophy or Hypertrophy: A significant difference in muscle mass from one leg to the other could be indicative of muscle disuse or overuse.


Visual Clues for Hamstrings:


  • Altered Stride Mechanics: A premature or forceful foot strike during running may hint at hamstring weakness or dysfunction.

  • Irregular Swing Phase: A lack of smooth deceleration during the terminal swing phase could indicate compromised hamstring function.

  • Compensation Patterns: Overcompensation by other muscle groups like the quadriceps or glutes during running might point to hamstring imbalance.

  • Reduced Knee Flexion: Insufficient knee flexion during the swing phase could suggest hamstring dysfunction.

  • Inconsistent Hamstring Contour: Visible differences in muscle contour or definition between the hamstrings of each leg could be a visual clue for muscle imbalance or dysfunction.


Through recognizing these palpatory and visual clues, proactive measures can be undertaken to address hamstring dysfunction, ensuring a smooth, controlled stride that minimizes the risk of injury.


 

Tibialis Anterior: The Landing Supervisor


The tibialis anterior, positioned along the shin, regulates the foot's initial contact with the ground, acting much like a landing gear to avert foot slap. A dysfunction within this muscle could cause abrupt ground contact, potentially triggering foot or shin discomfort or injury.


Palpatory Clues for Tibialis Anterior:


  • Asymmetrical Muscle Tone: A discernible difference in muscle tone between the tibialis anterior of each leg might indicate an imbalance or dysfunction.

  • Pain upon Palpation: Discomfort or localized pain when palpating the tibialis anterior may hint at issues such as trigger points or myofascial adhesions.

  • Restricted Fascial Glide: Limited smooth movement in the fascial layers over the tibialis anterior could suggest fascial restrictions or adhesions.

  • Myofascial Taut Bands: Palpable, cord-like structures running along the muscle fibers may indicate chronic tension or muscle imbalance.

  • Muscle Atrophy or Hypertrophy: A significant difference in muscle mass from one leg to the other could be indicative of muscle disuse or overuse.


Visual Clues for Tibialis Anterior:


  • Foot Slap: A noticeable slapping sound or appearance during the initial foot contact phase might indicate tibialis anterior weakness or dysfunction.

  • Altered Ankle Dorsiflexion: Insufficient dorsiflexion or an altered movement pattern during running could suggest tibialis anterior dysfunction.

  • Compensation Patterns: Overcompensation by other muscle groups or altered gait mechanics might point to tibialis anterior imbalance.

  • Swelling or Discoloration: Visible swelling or discoloration along the shin could be a visual clue for muscle strain or other issues within the tibialis anterior.

  • Changed Foot Strike Pattern: A shift in foot strike pattern, like from a midfoot to a forefoot strike, might indicate an attempt to compensate for tibialis anterior dysfunction.


Identifying these palpatory and visual clues can prompt proactive measures to address any dysfunction within the tibialis anterior, thereby ensuring a smoother landing with each stride and reducing the risk of associated discomfort or injury.


 

Gastrocnemius and Soleus Anatomy

Gastrocnemius and Soleus: The Push-Off Performers


The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, residents of the calf region, star in the push-off act during the late stance phase. Dysfunction in this duo could curtail push-off force, tweaking stride length and overall running efficacy, akin to a dancer missing a beat in a choreographed sequence.


Palpatory Clues for Gastrocnemius and Soleus:


  • Asymmetrical Muscle Tone: A discernible difference in muscle tone between the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of each leg might indicate imbalance or dysfunction.

  • Pain upon Palpation: Discomfort or localized pain when palpating these calf muscles may hint at issues like trigger points or myofascial adhesions.

  • Restricted Fascial Glide: Limited smooth movement in the fascial layers over these muscles could suggest fascial restrictions or adhesions.

  • Myofascial Taut Bands: Palpable, cord-like structures running along the muscle fibers may indicate chronic tension or muscle imbalance.

  • Muscle Atrophy or Hypertrophy: A significant difference in muscle mass from one leg to the other could be indicative of muscle disuse or overuse.


Visual Clues for Gastrocnemius and Soleus:


  • Reduced Push-off: A less forceful push-off during running, affecting stride length and overall efficiency.

  • Altered Calf Mechanics: Visible changes in calf mechanics during walking or running might indicate gastrocnemius and soleus dysfunction.

  • Compensation Patterns: Overcompensation by other muscle groups or altered gait mechanics might point to an imbalance in these calf muscles.

  • Swelling or Discoloration: Visible swelling or discoloration in the calf region could be a visual clue for muscle strain or other issues within the gastrocnemius and soleus.

  • Changed Foot Strike Pattern: A shift in foot strike pattern, like from a midfoot to a forefoot strike, might indicate an attempt to compensate for calf muscle dysfunction.


Spotting these palpatory and visual clues can usher in proactive measures to address any dysfunction within the gastrocnemius and soleus, facilitating a sturdy push-off with each stride, and maintaining the rhythm of your run.


 

Intrinsic Foot Muscle Anatomy

Intrinsic Foot Muscles, Tibialis Posterior, Peroneus Longus, and Brevis: The Stance Stabilizers



These specialized muscles join forces to lend stability to the foot and orchestrate pronation and supination during stance, akin to a finely-tuned suspension system absorbing shocks and preserving balance. A discord here could give way to overpronation or supination, setting the stage for potential discomfort or pain in the foot, ankle, or knee.


Palpatory Clues for Intrinsic Foot Muscles and Associated Muscles:


  • Asymmetrical Muscle Tone: A noticeable difference in muscle tone within these muscle groups on each foot might indicate an imbalance or dysfunction.

  • Pain upon Palpation: Discomfort or localized pain when palpating these muscles may hint at trigger points or myofascial adhesions.

  • Restricted Fascial Glide: Limited smooth movement in the fascial layers over these muscles could indicate fascial restrictions or adhesions.

  • Myofascial Taut Bands: Palpable, cord-like structures along the muscle fibers may indicate chronic tension or muscle imbalance.

  • Muscle Atrophy or Hypertrophy: A discernible difference in muscle mass from one foot to the other could be indicative of muscle disuse or overuse.


Visual Clues for Intrinsic Foot Muscles and Associated Muscles:


  • Altered Foot Mechanics: Changes in foot mechanics during walking or running might indicate dysfunction in these muscles.

  • Overpronation or Supination: Excessive inward or outward roll of the foot during walking or running can be a visual clue for muscle dysfunction.

  • Arch Collapse: A noticeable collapse of the arch during stance phase might suggest weakness or dysfunction in these muscles.

  • Compensatory Toe Gripping: Over-gripping of the toes during walking or running might indicate an attempt to compensate for intrinsic muscle dysfunction.

  • Altered Gait Pattern: Changes in the gait pattern, like a shuffled or slapping gait, might point to dysfunction in these stance stabilizing muscles.


In the concluding segment of this section, we feature an MSR demonstration video, unveiling practical techniques to ensure your lower extremities resonate harmoniously with your running rhythm, demonstrating the integral role of these muscles in maintaining a stable and efficient stance.


 

Motion Specific Release (MSR) Demonstration Video


MSR Runner's Maintenance Demonstration Video
Click Image to Watch Video

MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide - Part 4

In this section Dr. Abelson turns his attention to the lower extremities. It is here, in the dynamic interplay of the quadriceps, hamstrings, tibialis anterior, and the muscles of the calf and foot, where the power and precision of running truly come to life.


 

Runners Bodies in Motion

Conclusion Runner's Maintenance - Part 4


In the intricate choreography of running, each muscle group contributes to the grace and efficiency of movement. The glutes power forward, the quadriceps and hamstrings maintain rhythm, while the intrinsic foot muscles finely tune our balance. Understanding and addressing any dysfunction in this interconnected system is paramount for enhancing performance and averting ailments. As you gear up for your next run, appreciate the orchestration of muscles propelling you forward. Investing time in routine assessments, corrective exercises, and engaging in Motion Specific Release (MSR) procedures can significantly contribute to increased running performance and injury prevention, ensuring a fluid and enjoyable running experience.


 

DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC. - The Author


Photo of Dr. Brian Abelson

Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


 


MSR Instructor Mike Burton Smiling

Join Us at Motion Specific Release


Enroll in our courses to master innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly fit into your current clinical practice, providing your patients with substantial relief from pain and a renewed sense of functionality. Our curriculum masterfully integrates rigorous medical science with creative therapeutic paradigms, comprehensively understanding musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment protocols.


Join MSR Pro and start tapping into the power of Motion Specific Release. Have access to:

  • Protocols: Over 250 clinical procedures with detailed video productions.

  • Examination Procedures: Over 70 orthopedic and neurological assessment videos and downloadable PDF examination forms for use in your clinical practice are coming soon.

  • Exercises: You can prescribe hundreds of Functional Exercises Videos to your patients through our downloadable prescription pads.

  • Article Library: Our Article Index Library with over 45+ of the most common MSK conditions we all see in clinical practice. This is a great opportunity to educate your patients on our processes. Each article covers basic condition information, diagnostic procedures, treatment methodologies, timelines, and exercise recommendations. All of this is in an easy-to-prescribe PDF format you can directly send to your patients.

  • Discounts: MSR Pro yearly memberships entitle you to a significant discount on our online and live courses.


Integrating MSR into your practice can significantly enhance your clinical practice. The benefits we mentioned are only a few reasons for joining our MSR team.


 

References

  1. Novacheck, T. F. (1998). The biomechanics of running. Gait & Posture, 7(1), 77-95. doi:10.1016/S0966-6362(97)00038-6

  2. Hamill, J., & Knutzen, K. M. (2009). Biomechanical basis of human movement. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  3. Cavanagh, P. R., & Lafortune, M. A. (1980). Ground reaction forces in distance running. Journal of Biomechanics, 13(5), 397-406. doi:10.1016/0021-9290(80)90033-0

  4. Lieberman, D. E., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W. A., Daoud, A. I., D'Andrea, S., Davis, I. S., Mang'eni, R. O., & Pitsiladis, Y. (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463(7280), 531-535. doi:10.1038/nature08723

  5. Mann, R., & Hagy, J. (1980). Biomechanics of walking, running, and sprinting. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 8(5), 345-350. doi:10.1177/036354658000800506

  6. Iosa, M., Fusco, A., Marchetti, F., Morone, G., Caltagirone, C., Paolucci, S., & Peppe, A. (2012). The golden ratio of gait harmony: repetitive proportions of repetitive gait phases. BioMed research international, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/918642

  7. Kerrigan, D. C., Todd, M. K., & Croce, U. D. (1998). Gender differences in joint biomechanics during walking: normative study in young adults. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 77(1), 2-7. doi:10.1097/00002060-199801000-00002

  8. Taunton, J. E., Ryan, M. B., Clement, D. B., McKenzie, D. C., Lloyd-Smith, D. R., & Zumbo, B. D. (2002). A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British journal of sports medicine, 36(2), 95-101. doi:10.1136/bjsm.36.2.95

  9. Meardon, S. A., Hamill, J., & Derrick, T. R. (2011). Running injury and stride time variability over a prolonged run. Gait & posture, 33(1), 36-40. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.10.009

  10. Lieberman, D. E., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W. A., Daoud, A. I., D'Andrea, S., Davis, I. S., ... & Pitsiladis, Y. (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463(7280), 531-535. doi:10.1038/nature08723

  11. Heiderscheit, B. C., Chumanov, E. S., Michalski, M. P., Wille, C. M., & Ryan, M. B. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43(2), 296-302. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ebedf4

  12. Novacheck, T. F. (1998). The biomechanics of running. Gait & Posture, 7(1), 77-95. doi:10.1016/S0966-6362(97)00038-6

  13. Stearne, S. M., Alderson, J. A., Green, B. A., Donnelly, C. J., & Rubenson, J. (2016). Joint kinetics in rearfoot versus forefoot running: implications of switching technique. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(7), 1401-1410. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000919

  14. Hasegawa, H., Yamauchi, T., & Kraemer, W. J. (2007). Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), 888-893. doi:10.1519/R-22096.1

  15. Taunton, J. E., Ryan, M. B., Clement, D. B., McKenzie, D. C., Lloyd-Smith, D. R., & Zumbo, B. D. (2002). A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36(2), 95-101. doi:10.1136/bjsm.36.2.95

  16. Kerrigan, D. C., Franz, J. R., Keenan, G. S., Dicharry, J., Della Croce, U., & Wilder, R. P. (2009). The effect of running shoes on lower extremity joint torques. PM&R, 1(12), 1058-1063. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2009.09.011

  17. Dierks, T. A., Manal, K. T., Hamill, J., & Davis, I. (2008). Proximal and distal influences on hip and knee kinematics in runners with patellofemoral pain during a prolonged run. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 38(8), 448-456. doi:10.2519/jospt.2008.2490

  18. Zadpoor, A. A., & Nikooyan, A. A. (2011). The relationship between lower-extremity stress fractures and the ground reaction force: a systematic review. Clinical Biomechanics, 26(1), 23-28. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2010.08.005

  19. Boyer, E. R., & Derrick, T. R. (2015). Select injury-related variables are affected by stride length and foot strike style during running. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(9), 2310-2317. doi:10.1177/0363546515592837


 

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