Your gait is the pattern of your walk. When you develop a problem with that pattern, it’s called a gait disturbance. It’s often an indication of a physical condition.
At Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates, our expert providers help people who have gait disturbances. A variety of health issues, including arthritis, knee pain, joint problems, and many others, can lead to a change in how you walk. Because so many of the conditions that lead to a gait disturbance are serious, it’s important to talk to an expert instead of ignoring the problem.
Walking is complicated
If you stop and think about everything that happens when you walk, it’s really amazing. Your brain and nervous system have to send the proper signals, your muscles and joints respond accordingly, your vascular system makes sure you have the oxygen you need, and all your senses are at work, too. Walking across the room requires all these different systems to work in concert with one another!
Once you think about what’s involved in walking, it’s easier to understand why a problem walking could be a big issue. Researchers have divided gait abnormalities into different categories, including:
- Propulsive gait - head and neck bent forward
- Spastic gait - dragging one foot
- Scissoring gait - knees and thighs hit or cross in a scissor-like movement
- Steppage gait - foot drops with toes pointing down, so the knee must lift higher
- Waddling gait - usually happens during childhood, with side-to-side movement
- Ataxic gait - unsteady, irregular, jerky - like an intoxicated person
- Magnetic gait - shuffling, not lifting the feet
- Antalgic gait - unable to move feet and legs normally due to pain
- Shuffling gait - sliding the feet along the ground
Each of these different gait abnormalities can be caused by problems with different bodily systems. For example, arthritis of the spine, hip, or knee could cause antalgic gait, and both a shuffling gait and a propulsive gait are often associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Don’t delay treatment
There are a few different reasons you should talk to your doctor if you notice you aren’t walking in the way you usually do.
Risk of Injury
You’re at a greater risk of injuring yourself either because your balance is affected or because your body isn’t responding in the way you expect it should.
Earlier treatment = better outcomes
If you have an underlying condition such as multiple sclerosis or a vitamin deficiency, which are both associated with gait abnormality, your outcome is likely to be better if you get treatment.
Finally, getting help with an abnormal gait can help prevent other issues such as a muscle imbalance. There’s also the possibility that being unable to walk comfortably could negatively impact your overall health leading to issues like heart disease, or depression.
Correcting a gait abnormality
As you might expect, the treatment for gait abnormality depends on what happens when you walk and what’s causing the problem. If you have an ataxic gait because you’re intoxicated, sobering up solves the problem—but if you have an ataxic gait because you take anti-seizure medication or you’ve had a stroke, the treatments are quite different.
Talking to a highly trained expert is an important part of getting the right treatment, whether that ends up being physical therapy, using a mobility device, or getting treatment for an underlying condition. Schedule your appointment at Dr. Keppler & Associates today, and begin the process of finding out why your walk has changed.