Mirror gait retraining for the treatment of patellofemoral pain in female runners



      Abnormal hip mechanics are often implicated in female runners with patellofemoral pain. We sought to evaluate a simple gait retraining technique, using a full-length mirror, in female runners with patellofemoral pain and abnormal hip mechanics. Transfer of the new motor skill to the untrained tasks of single leg squat and step descent was also evaluated.


      Ten female runners with patellofemoral pain completed 8 sessions of mirror and verbal feedback on their lower extremity alignment during treadmill running. During the last 4 sessions, mirror and verbal feedback were progressively removed. Hip mechanics were assessed during running gait, a single leg squat and a step descent, both pre- and post-retraining. Subjects returned to their normal running routines and analyses were repeated at 1-month and 3-month post-retraining. Data were analyzed via repeated measures analysis of variance.


      Subjects reduced peaks of hip adduction, contralateral pelvic drop, and hip abduction moment during running (P<0.05, effect size=0.69–2.91). Skill transfer to single leg squatting and step descent was noted (P<0.05, effect size=0.91–1.35). At 1 and 3 months post retraining, most mechanics were maintained in the absence of continued feedback. Subjects reported improvements in pain and function (P<0.05, effect size=3.81–7.61) and maintained through 3 months post retraining.


      Mirror gait retraining was effective in improving mechanics and measures of pain and function. Skill transfer to the untrained tasks of squatting and step descent indicated that a higher level of motor learning had occurred. Extended follow-up is needed to determine the long term efficacy of this treatment.


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