Immediate combined effect of gastrocnemius stretching and sustained talocrural joint mobilization in individuals with limited ankle dorsiflexion

While gastrocnemius stretching and talocrural joint mobilization have been proposed as effective interventions to manage limited ankle dorsiflexion passive range of motion (DF PROM), the effects of a combination of the two interventions have not been identified. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of gastrocnemius stretching combined with joint mobilization and gastrocnemius stretching alone. In total, 24 individuals with limited ankle DF PROM were randomized to undergo gastrocnemius stretching combined with joint mobilization (12 feet in 12 individuals) or gastrocnemius stretching alone (12 feet in 12 individuals) for 5 min. Ankle kinematics during gait (time to heel-off and ankle DF before heel-off), ankle DF PROM, posterior talar glide, and displacement of the myotendinous junction (MTJ) of the gastrocnemius were assessed prior to and following the interventions. The groups were compared using two-way repeated measures analysis of variance. Greater increases in the time to heel-off and ankle DF before heel-off during gait and posterior talar glide were seen in the stretching combined with joint mobilization group versus the stretching alone group. Ankle DF PROM and displacement of the MTJ of the gastrocnemius were increased significantly after the interventions in both groups, without any significant difference between them.

These findings indicate that gastrocnemius stretching with joint mobilization should be considered to improve ankle kinematics during gait.