Gait or walking process is a very complex task. The intricate movement sub-processes which are involved in getting you from point A to B are more complicated than you could ever imagine. Gait training has various purposes depending on the patient undergoing gait treatment. For athletes, gait training could be recuperating from a lower body injury or performance enhancing training. For patients with specific medical conditions, it could be just the ability to walk with normal movement.
What causes gait imbalance?
There are a few common causes of gait problems which includes diseases, accident related injuries or repeated usage of wrong footwear which alters gait. The most common cause of gait imbalance is a primary medical condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, arthritis, brain tumour, spinal cord compression and gout. Injury to the foot may cause an individual to develop an unusual swing in walking to avoid pain. This a major cause of temporary gait imbalance. Injury specific trauma and inflammation might cause temporary imbalance but neurological conditions often turn out to be long-term difficulties. Poor posture is another important factor causing gait issues.
Why is gait correction important?
Your gait is important as it is a pattern of coordinated movement which involves muscles and joints. Abnormal gait developed through poor walking habits puts excessive stress on the joints and causes injuries or exposes them to diseases like arthritis.
How Physiotherapy can help?
Your physiotherapist is qualified to perform gait analysis. Your gait performance depends on parameters such as step length, cadence, dynamic base, stride length, speed, foot angle, hip angle and progression line. Depending on these factors your gait cycle is determined by your therapist. The muscles used in normal gait such as hip abductors, hip flexors, ankle dorsiflexors, ankle plantarflexors and knee flexors are also evaluated but an experienced therapist can detect walking anomalies by observation.
1. Gait Training
The first part of the training includes forward walking which concentrates on your swing and step. To improve gait heel strike is important which is improved through the heel-to-toe walking. Side to side walking, turning while walking, stairs and railing training is all part of the correctional program. The advanced part of your training program will include walking without support, walking on uneven surfaces and climbing up and down. Special orthotic equipment might also be recommended by your physiotherapist for quick recovery.
There are various exercises for improving gait which concentrate on foot movement, balance, strength, flexibility and coordination. Foot exercises such as calf stretch, toe stretch, toe curls, foot raises and more. Balance exercises are aimed to improve proprioceptive, vision and vestibular component. These exercises are supervised by your physiotherapist for posture correction. Building muscle tone, optimising gait for minimal muscle stress and achieving normal function are the basic goals of the treatment plan.
It is a myth that gait training is only for those suffering from mobility impairing diseases. If your any injury has changed your gait, you better visit your physiotherapist before it does some permanent damage.