Gait Difficulty and Disturbances

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Gait dysfunctions are changes in your normal walking pattern, often related to a disease or abnormalities in different areas of the body. Most changes in an individuals gait pattern are related to an underlying medical conditions. Gait dysfunctions can be related to disorders involving the inner ear; nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s disease; muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy; and musculoskeletal abnormalities such as fractures, weakness, range of motion limits in lower quarter joints. In many cases, treatment of the underlying medical condition will help normalize the gait pattern.  Gait dysfunctions are among the most common causes of falls in older adults, accounting for approximately 17% of falls. Physical therapists are experts at identifying the root causes of gait dysfunctions and designing treatments plans.  While other health care professionals are educated in the screening for potential conditions related to the gait abnormality, a physical therapist is the expert in diagnosing the actual type of gait dysfunction. Your physical therapist will ask you questions, such as:

  • When did you notice you were walking differently?
  • Is the problem getting better or worse?
  • Has it resulted in a fall or any additional problems?
  • Are you in pain while you walk? Does walking aggravate the pain? Does walking improve the pain?
  • Have there been any recent changes in your medical history, including changes in medications?

Your physical therapist will also conduct certain tests to learn more about your condition. Your assessment may include:

  • Observation: Are there any abnormalities in your gait pattern, including delays in timing of muscle activation, compensatory changes in the trunk, hip or lower quarter/leg, mechanical changes such as pronation issues from the foot, lack of knee, hip or trunk control and if there may be a need for an assistive device.
  • Gait speed measurements: Studies have shown that complications like falling are related to how fast you walk.
  • Balance tests: To determine any deficits in your balance and possible your risk of falling.
  • Strength and range-of-motion measurements: These tests can help determine whether the dysfunction is due to musculoskeletal limitations.
  • Neurological screening tests.
  • Treadmill video walking and running analysis to help determine frame by frame any challenges and deficits during these activities.

Your therapist will work with you to understand your goals and develop a treatment plan to achieve those goals through physical therapy.  Our treatments have an individualized, patient-centered focused. All treatments are one-on-one so you can expect to receive optimal care during each treatment session.