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Gait Dysfunctions Physiotherapy
A man uses a hands-free harness walking gait training device during a physiotherapy gait session
Gait dysfunctions are changes in your normal walking pattern, which is typically caused/related to a disease or abnormality in different areas of the body.
dysfunctions are among the most common causes of falls in older adults,
estimated as the cause for approximately 17% of falls. What our senior physiotherapists do are identifying the root causes of gait
dysfunctions, and designing specific physiotherapy gait treatments that restore gait.
What are Gait Dysfunctions?
Gait dysfunctions make the pattern of how you walk (ie, your gait)
Most changes in gait are specificly-related to medical conditions. Gait dysfunctions can be related to
involving the inner ear
- nervous system disorders such as Parkinson's disease
- muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy
- and musculoskeletal abnormalities such as fractures
In many cases,
treating the medical condition directly will also directly help normalize the
Common classifications of gait dysfunction include:
- Anatalgic. This type of gait dysfunction is often
caused by bearing weight on a painful leg. It can be related to
arthritis or a traumatic injury, and is what many people refer to as a
"limp." People with this dysfunction take slow and short steps, and
quickly try to shift their weight off of the sore leg, ankle, or foot,
and back onto the unaffected leg.
- Cerebellar Ataxia. This gait dysfunction is often
seen in individuals who have a condition of the cerebellum (a region of
the brain), drug or alcohol intoxication, multiple sclerosis, or have
experienced a stroke. The affected individual will have a wide-based
stance (feet wide apart), and display inconsistent and erratic foot
- Parkinsonian. This type of gait dysfunction is often related to Parkinson’s disease and is characterized by short, shuffled steps.
- Steppage. This dysfunction occurs in people with
"foot drop" (an inability to lift the ankle), which is related to
conditions, such as lumbar radiculopathy and neuropathy. Because the
ankle will "slap" off of the ground, the individual will often lift the
leg higher at the knee and hip, to clear the foot when taking a
- Vestibular Ataxia. This pattern is often related to
vertigo (dizziness), Meniere’s disease (an inner-ear condition), and labyrinthitis
(a type of inner-ear disorder in 1 ear). It causes people to walk
unsteadily, often falling toward 1 side.
- Waddling. This pattern often arises from muscular dystrophy and myopathy, and causes individuals to walk on their toes, while swaying side-to-side.
Note: These are only a few of the many possible gait
dysfunctions. If you suspect you are walking unusually or differently, contact our
senior physiotherapist for a gait assessment.
How Is Gait Dysfunctions Diagnosed?
There are many different strategies and tools that can help our senior
physiotherapists diagnose a gait dysfunction - we
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?
- Have there been any recent changes in your medical history, including changes in medications?
We will also conduct certain tests to learn more about your condition. Your assessment may include:
- Observation. We will ask you to walk back and forth, to observe any abnormalities in your gait pattern.
- Gait speed measurements. We
will time your walking speed. Studies have shown that complications like
falling are related to how fast you walk.
- Balance tests. We may also assess your balance to determine your risk of falling.
- Strength and range-of-motion measurements. These
tests can help determine whether the dysfunction is due to
musculoskeletal limitations. We may utilize tools,
such as a goniometer to measure your joint motion, or dynamometer to
measure your strength.
- Reflex and sensation screenings. These measurements
will help us determine whether a neurological
(brain or nervous system) condition is present.
how our senior physiotherapists can help
Physiotherapists play a vital role in helping individuals improve
Our senior physiotherapists will work with you to develop a
treatment plan to help address your specific needs and goals. We will design an individualized program to treat your
Physiotherapy treatment strategy may include:
We may begin
your treatment by having you perform activities and exercises that will
help you understand how to improve your gait, without taking a single
These exercises may include simple activities, such as having you
stand and lift your leg in place, to more complex strategies like
stepping in place and initiating contact with your heel to the ground,
prior to other portions of the foot.
We will help you
focus on retraining the way you walk. Because the underlying condition
may be vestibular, neurological, or muscular, variations in the training
exist. We will design the safest and best training
for your specific condition.
Balance and Coordination Training
We may prescribe balance training physiotherapy exercises and activities for you to perform to help stabilize your walking pattern.
We may employ neuromuscular reeducation techniques to activate any inactive
muscle groups that may be affecting your gait.
Bracing or Splinting
If the gait dysfunction is due
to significant weakness or paralysis of a ligament, we may teach you how to use adaptive equipment, like a brace or
splint, to help you move.
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At the first session, our specialist physiotherapists will carry out a thorough
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Follow up sessions are inline to provide
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