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A Tight Calf Muscle May Be the Achilles Heel of Foot Pain

Children and adults with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, or other diseases of the nervous system often have foot and ankle problems. The most common of these is a tight calf muscle that limits ankle motion. Dorsiflexion is the term used to describe movement of the ankle as it bends upward toward the face. This is the motion most often limited by foot or ankle problems.

Adults without neurological diseases can also have foot pain and loss of ankle motion. This is not as common as in the group with neurological disorders and hasn't been studied much. A group of orthopedic doctors decided to test ankle dorsiflexion in normal adults with foot pain. They wanted to know if people without neurological disease have tight calf muscles and if that tightness causes foot pain.

People with foot pain do have tighter calf muscles than the healthy adult without foot pain. This causes a loss of ankle motion. Whether it causes the foot pain or occurs as a result of foot pain remains unknown. It is suspected that the muscle tightness leads to problems in the foot. More studies are needed to answer this question completely.


Christopher W. DiGiovanni, MD, et al. Isolated Gastrocnemius Tightness. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. June 2002. Vol. 84-A. No. 6. Pp. 962-970.

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