What’s a gait issue?

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Gait disturbance is an abnormality in the way a person walks, affecting the pattern of movement, balance and pace. It can be caused by physical trauma, neurological disorders, illnesses, medications or fear of falling. Diagnosis and treatment plans depend on the nature and severity of the disturbance and should be obtained from a licensed physician.

‘Gait disturbance’ is a term used to describe an abnormality in the way a person walks. A person’s gait is the pattern in which each step is taken and how pace and balance are controlled as movement occurs. Gait disturbances affect the normal smoothness of this pattern, making walking difficult and sometimes even impossible. Depending on the area of ​​the body affected, a gait disturbance will present itself in various ways. Common symptoms of gait disturbances include shuffling, swaying, slow or uncoordinated movement, and balance problems when walking.

While walking is as natural to most people as breathing in and out, the act of walking requires a great deal of coordination and engages most of the major muscle groups in the body. The eyes and ears also assist the body in the act of balancing and standing. The smoothness of this movement depends very much on the strength and correct coordination of muscles and bones and on the ability of the brain to correctly transmit and receive instructions about that movement. Walking is a process that requires the rhythmic cooperation of most of the body, and seemingly small changes or disturbances can affect one’s gait pattern and ultimately the ability to walk.

A gait disturbance can occur for a variety of reasons and requires medical attention to find the root cause of the particular disturbance. Many times, gait abnormalities occur after physical trauma and are a direct result of a body part such as a compromised arm or leg, tight muscles, or inflammation. Neurological disorders, illnesses, certain medications, and even a fear of falling can also be contributing factors to or causes gait disturbances. So many bodily systems are involved in the walking process that the causes of gait abnormalities vary widely.

For those experiencing some form of gait disturbance, examination by a licensed physician is required. A complete patient history will be obtained and observation of the particular gait disturbance will be conducted. Other procedures for diagnosis may also be performed at the discretion of a physician to determine any underlying causes that may be contributing factors.

There are therapies available to minimize and possibly correct a gait disturbance. Treatment plans will depend on the nature, origin and severity of the particular gait disturbance. Evaluation and diagnosis of a gait disturbance should be obtained from a licensed physician.

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