Varied response to mirror gait retraining of gluteus medius control, hip kinematics, pain, and function in 2 female runners with patellofemoral pain

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Dec;43(12):864-74. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2013.4516. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


Study design: Case report.

Background: The underlying mechanism of the changes in running mechanics after gait retraining is presently unknown. This case report assesses changes in muscle coordination and kinematics during treadmill running and step ascent in 2 female runners with patellofemoral pain after mirror gait retraining.

Case description: Two female runners with chronic patellofemoral pain underwent 8 sessions of mirror gait retraining during treadmill running. Subjective measures and hip abductor strength were recorded at baseline and after the retraining phase. Changes in hip mechanics and electromyography data of the gluteus medius during treadmill running and step ascent were also assessed.

Outcomes: Both runners reported improvements in pain and function that were maintained for at least 3 months. During running, peak contralateral pelvic drop (baseline-postretraining difference: runner 1, 2.6° less; runner 2, 1.7° less) and peak hip adduction (baseline-postretraining difference: runner 1, 5.2° less; runner 2, 6.3° less) were reduced after retraining. Kinematic reductions accompanied earlier activation of the gluteus medius relative to foot strike (baseline-postretraining difference: runner 1, 12.6 milliseconds earlier; runner 2, 37.3 milliseconds earlier) and longer duration of gluteus medius activity (runner 1, 55.8 milliseconds longer; runner 2, 44.4 milliseconds longer). Runner 1 transferred reduced contralateral pelvic drop to step ascent, whereas runner 2 did not (contralateral pelvic drop baseline-postretraining difference: runner 1, 3.6° less; runner 2, 1.5° more; hip adduction baseline-postretraining difference: runner 1, 3.0° less; runner 2, 0.5° more). Both runners demonstrated earlier onset of gluteus medius activity during step ascent (baseline-postretraining difference: runner 1, 48.0 milliseconds earlier; runner 2, 28.3 milliseconds earlier), but only runner 1 demonstrated longer activation duration (runner 1, 25.0 milliseconds longer; runner 2, 69.4 milliseconds shorter).

Discussion: While changes in hip mechanics and gluteus medius activity during running were consistent with those noted during step ascent for runner 1, runner 2 failed to demonstrate similar consistency between the tasks. Earlier onset and longer duration of gluteus medius activity may have been necessary to alter step mechanics for runner 2.

Level of evidence: Therapy, level 4.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Gait*
  • Hip Joint / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / therapy*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Running / physiology*
  • Young Adult