Walking abnormalities are characterized as uncontrollable, abnormal patterns that can be inherited or caused by injuries or diseases. These abnormalities can affect the bones, muscles and nerves of the legs.
The abnormalities can affect the whole leg or only on certain parts such as the ankle or knee. Any problems with the foot can also lead to walking abnormalities. The abnormalities can either be temporary or long-term depending on the actual cause. Walking abnormalities are also called as gait abnormalities.
Causes of walking abnormalities
Problems when it comes to walking can occur temporarily due to cuts, bone fractures and bruising. Nevertheless, walking abnormalities can also be caused by diseases affecting the brain, legs, nerves and the spine. The common causes of walking abnormalities include:
- Leg injuries
- Birth defects such as club foot
- Bone fractures
- Shin splints
- Infections causing damaged tissues within the legs
- Inner ear infections
- Psychological disorders
- Nervous system disorders such as cerebral palsy
Even though most of these are temporary, some such as cerebral palsy can lead to permanent walking abnormalities.
Symptoms of walking abnormalities
Walking abnormalities are categorized into main groups based on their symptoms.
- Scissors gait – individual walks with a posture that is crouched while the legs are bent inward slightly. The individual can walk with the legs or knees crossing or striking one another.
- Propulsive gait – marked with a slouched and stiff posture in which an individual walks with the head and neck moved forward.
- Spastic gait – individual drags the feet when walking and walks in a stiff manner.
- Waddling gait – the individual waddles from side to side when walking.
- Steppage gait – individual walks with the toes pointed downwards before the back of the foot drops to the ground.
Diagnosing walking abnormalities
The doctor will perform a physical examination while the symptoms and the medical history are reviewed and the way you walk is observed. Even tests that assess the muscle or nerve function are performed to help determine if there is a possible structural problem.
In case of an injury or fall, an imaging scan such as an X-ray will be requested to check for broken bones. For a thorough test, an MRI will be performed to determine if there are torn ligaments and tendons.
Treatment for walking abnormalities
Walking abnormalities can be treated if the underlying condition is treated. For a broken bone or fracture, a cast or surgery might be needed to set the bone in its proper place.
Physical therapy is also recommended to treat walking abnormalities. During the therapy, exercises that were specifically designed to strengthen the muscles are performed and they can correct the way you walk.
In case if an infection caused the abnormality, antibiotics are administered to deal with the infection.
Individuals who have permanent abnormality might be given assistive devices such as a walker, crutches, a cane or leg braces.