What is Dorsiflexion?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2019
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Dorsiflexion is the process of lifting the foot or the hand in a direction that draws the fingers or toes closer to the body. Physical movement of this type can also include bending the ankle in a fashion that decreases the natural alignment of the foot in relation to the lower leg. Dorsiflexion can refer to exercises that are designed to strengthen the ankles and wrists while also extending the range of motion for toes and fingers. However, this term can also be applied to movements that are involuntary and extremely painful.

As part of a physical fitness program, dorsiflexion involves systematically bending at the natural joints situated at key points on the body’s appendages. When the dorsiflexion exercises involve the hands and arms, this can mean intentionally bending the ankle so that the angle between the foot and the lower leg is decreased. The idea is to decrease the angle as much as possible without incurring pain. Over time, this type of activity will help to minimize the potential for arthritis to develop in the ankle joint as the individual ages.


The same general idea of ankle dorsiflexion also applies to the wrist. By bending the hand upward at the wrist for a count of ten, relaxing, then repeating the exercise ten to twelve times, the wrist remains limber and is less susceptible arthritis as well as possible sprains. As with exercises involving the ankle, it is important to monitor dorsiflexion pain levels during the repetitions, and not attempt to bend the joint to any angle that causes severe discomfort.

Fingers and toes can also be the focus of a dorsiflexion workout. By gradually expanding the range of motion at the key joints where these appendages join the hands and feet, the chances of developing stiffness in those joints is substantially decreased. This can be especially important for people who type or rely on easy movement of their fingers to make a living.

There are several reasons why foot dorsiflexion may be an ideal tool in learning how to walk and run properly. People sometimes land the foot at an awkward angle that places too much pressure on the heel or the ball of the foot. Over time, this can have an adverse effect on the muscles groups of the legs as well as cause damage to the bone structure of the foot and the legs. When monitored by a trained physical therapist, dorsiflexion can correct bad walking and running habits and prevent a wide range of health issues later in life.


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Post 2

Dorsiflexion works great for helping the wrists feel better during a long day of typing. After I started a new job that involved a lot of typing, I started doing short little dorsiflexion stretches throughout the day, and that made a big difference.

At first, I was sure that my job was going to give me carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. However, as long as I do my stretches, my wrists remain viable.

Post 1

I have used dorsiflexion of the ankle to help relieve strained muscles in my calves before. I don't know if this is recommended or not, but it sure helped my legs feel better.

Once, I had gone hiking for several hours uphill. This made my calves unbelievably sore the next day, so I started doing any sort of stretches that I could to make them feel better.

It seemed that pointing my toes up toward my shins stretched the calves nicely. Though it hurt a little at first, after awhile, it felt like my muscles had become more fluid.

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