Weight-Bearing Passive Dorsiflexion of the Hallux in Standing Is Not Related to Hallux Dorsiflexion During Walking

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Abstract

Study Design:

Case control study.

Objective:

To explore the validity of the assumptions underpinning the Hubscher maneuver of hallux dorsiflexion in relaxed standing, by comparing the relationship between static and dynamic first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint motions in groups differentiated by normal and abnormal clinical test findings.

Background:

Limitation of motion at the first MTP joint during gait may be due to either structural or functional factors. Functional hallux limitus (FHL) has been proposed as a term to describe the situation in which the first MTP joint shows no limitation when non-weight bearing, but shows limited dorsiflexion during gait. One clinical test of first MTP joint limitation during standing (the Hubscher maneuver or Jack's test) has become widely used in physical therapy, orthopedic, and podiatric assessments, supposedly to assess for the presence of hallux limitations during gait. The utility of the test is based on an assumption that restriction during the static maneuver is predictive of functional limitation at this joint during gait. Despite a lack of evidence for the validity of such an assumption, the outcome of the static test is often used to infer risk of overuse injury or as an outcome for functional therapy. This paper examines the validity of the assumptions supporting this widely used static test.

Methods and Measures:

First-MTP-joint motion was assessed using an electromagnetic motion tracking system in cases (n = 15) demonstrating clinically limited passive hallux dorsiflexion in relaxed standing, and in 15 controls matched for age and gender and demonstrating a clinically normal Hubscher maneuver. Maximum hallux dorsiflexion was measured with the subject non-weight bearing (seated), during relaxed standing, and during normal walking.

Results:

Hallux dorsiflexion was similar in cases and controls when motions were measured non-weight bearing (cases mean ± SD, 55.0° ± 11.0°; controls mean ± SD, 55.0° ± 10.7°), confirming the absence of structural joint change. In relaxed standing, maximum dorsiflexion was 50% less in cases (mean ± SD, 19.0° ± 8.9°) than in the controls (mean ± SD, 39.4° ± 6.1°; P<.001), supporting the initial test outcome and confirming the visual test observation of static functional limitation in the case group. During gait, however, cases (mean ± SD, 36.4° ± 9.1°), and controls (mean ± SD, 36.9° ± 7.9°) demonstrated comparable maximum dorsiflexion (P = .902). There was no significant relationship between static and dynamic first MTP joint motions (r = 0.186, P = .325).

Conclusion:

The clinical test of limited passive hallux dorsiflexion in stance is a valid test only of hallux dorsiflexion available during relaxed standing. There is no association between maximum dorsiflexion observed during a static weight-bearing examination and that occurring at the same joint during walking.

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