The inability to walk correctly (or at all) has a significant effect on one’s life. Gait dysfunctions, which are generally caused by injuries, nervous system complications, or muscular disorders, make walking an uncomfortable experience. To reduce the pain of walking, people must walk with an abnormal gait. In a similar vein to a limp, these gaits redistribute the pressure and stress to other parts of the body. Because these other walking methods are not truly stable, gait complications often lead to stumbling and falling. At Farmingdale Physical Therapy, our goal is to heal the cause of the gait dysfunction and help patients to once again enjoy pain-free walking.
Causes of An Abnormal Gait
In most cases, an abnormal gait stems from another body or mental complication. It is very rare that an individual with an abnormal gait has no related conditions. These are some of the most common causes:
- Foot injury or discomfort
- Traumatic injury affecting the legs and/or feet
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Muscular dystrophy
By observing each patient with an abnormal gait, our Long Island physical therapists can help determine the underlying problem. We use a comprehensive approach to determine the nature and extent of gait dysfunction.
- Gait speed
- Duration of abnormal gait
- Pain intensity
- Related complications
- Recent health changes
This information can help our Long Island physical therapy practice to learn more about your condition overall. Conducting these additional tests helps us to learn how this disorder is affecting your life.
- Gait speed test
- Balance test
- Strength/range of motion
With these insights, our Long Island physical therapy office can craft a specialized treatment to overcome both the physical and mental obstacles to walking.
6 Common Gait Dysfunctions
In addition to medical history and related conditions, our Long Island physical therapy practice is adept at identifying specific issues with the gait. Identifying the particular stride issue allows our Long Island physical therapy practice to address the underlying issue.
This is one of the most common gait dysfunctions, and is commonly confused with a limp. People tend to take short, slow steps to avoid placing too much weight on one part of the body (leg, foot or ankle). Antalgic gaits are often caused by injuries, but can also be developed over time, through arthritis or misuse.
This gait dysfunction is almost exclusively related to people with Parkinson’s disease. It is characterized by a hunched-over posture, along with slow and short steps.
Also known as “drop foot gait”, the steppage gait is common among patients with spine issues and/or nerve damage. This gait dysfunction causes people to lift their legs extra high during each stride to prevent their toes from touching the ground.
Muscle disorders such as muscular dystrophy cause people to waddle, or sway while walking on their toes.
5. Vestibular Ataxia
Patients with vestibular ataxia often favor and lean to one side, losing their balance. This is normally an issue for patients with vertigo, or other balance-distorting conditions.
6. Cerebellar Ataxia
Primarily caused by damage to the brain, patients with cerebellar ataxia often plant their feet in an abnormally wide stance, with inconsistent movement. Common factors include cerebellum damage, MS, or stroke victims.
3 Common Treatments
Based on your gait dysfunction and other relevant information, treatments vary greatly. Throughout the course of most treatments, there are several phases.
1. Pre-gait training
Before our gait-training coaches can fully restore your ability to walk normally, learning how to complete each phase of taking a step is imperative. During pre-gait training, our Long Island physical therapists will help you to successfully lift your leg in place. They will then gradually progress to stepping in place and stepping down heel-first.
2. Gait Training
After restoring the ability to successfully perform each part of the step, our physical therapy specialists will begin the gait training process. They will tailor this to your specific condition. We often recommend that patients use a device such as a cane, walker or crutches during this part of the process.
3. Balance Coaching
After re-educating your body to walk correctly, our Long Island physical therapy specialists will help restore your sense of balance, preventing future falls.
While these are the main phases of treatment, our gait training specialists may include additional phases of treatment. For example, re-activating muscle groups that had become inactive is essential. If necessary, they may also provide the patient with assistive equipment.
Long Island Physical Therapy
Our Long Island physical therapy practice can help you overcome the challenges associated with an abnormal gait to resume walking normally, and without pain.