Compensations in lower limb joint work during walking in response to unilateral calf muscle weakness

Niels F.J. Waterval, Merel Anne Brehm, Hilde E. Ploeger, Frans Nollet, Jaap Harlaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Patients with calf muscle weakness due to neuromuscular disorders have a reduced ankle push-off work, which leads to increased energy dissipation at contralateral heel-strike. Consequently, compensatory positive work needs to be generated, which is mechanically less efficient. It is unknown whether neuromuscular disorder patients compensate with their ipsilateral hip and/or contralateral leg; and if such compensatory joint work is related to walking energy cost. Research question: Do patients with calf muscle weakness compensate for the increase in negative joint work by increasing positive ipsilateral hip work and/or positive contralateral leg work? And is the total mechanical work related with walking energy cost? Methods: Seventeen patients with unilateral flaccid calf muscle weakness and 10 healthy individuals performed the following two tests: i) a barefoot 3D gait analysis at comfortable speed and matched control speed (i.e. 0.4 non-dimensional) to assess lower limb joint work and ii) a 6-minute walk test at comfortable speed to assess walking energy cost. Results: Patients had a lower comfortable walking speed compared to healthy individuals (1.05 vs 1.36 m/s, p < 0.001) and did not increase positive lower limb joint work at comfortable speed. At matched speed (1.25 m/s), patients showed increased positive work at their ipsilateral hip (0.38 ± 0.08 vs 0.27 ± 0.07, p = 0.001) and/or contralateral leg (0.99 ± 0.14 vs 0.69 ± 0.14, p < 0.001). Patients with weakest plantar flexors used both strategies. No relation between total positive work and walking energy cost was found (r = 0.43, p = 0.122). Significance: Patients with unilateral calf muscle weakness compensated for reduced ankle push-off work by lowering their comfortable walking speed or, at matched speed, by generating additional positive joint work at the ipsilateral hip and/or contralateral leg. The additional positive joint work at matched speed did not explain the elevated walking energy cost at comfortable speed, which needs further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-44
JournalGait and Posture
Volume66
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Ankle push-off
  • Gait compensations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Walking energy cost

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