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Parker PT: Your Gait Dysfunction Might Be Slowing You Down

March 21, 2018

Nothing is more frustrating when you are training for a race—whether it’s a 5k or a full marathon—than being sidelined by constant injuries. If you are a Parker runner who is constantly plagued with problems in your shins, calves, or hips, you might want to consider a running analysis.

Also referred to as a gait analysis, once the problem has been identified, you can be treated—and back on the road (or trail) feeling better than ever. Getting a professional gait analysis by an experienced clinician means a more efficient and accurate diagnosis. What this means for you is that you are running pain-free in a shorter amount of time.

What Does It Mean to Have a Gait Dysfunction?

When you have a gait dysfunction, it means that the way you are walking or running is abnormal in some way. In some cases, they can be related to some kind of disorder of the inner ear, diseases of the muscle or nervous system, or musculoskeletal abnormalities. When these underlying disorders are treated, often the problem with gait is normalized.

There are common classifications of gait dysfunction, as follows:
  • Anatalgic. This is commonly referred to as a limp, meaning people are putting more weight on one leg than the other. This is usually because they are in some kind of pain.
  • Cerebellar ataxia. This gait dysfunction is displayed by erratic foot placement, such as in someone who is intoxicated.
  • Parkinsonian. These short, shuffled steps are often seen in those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
  • Steppage. With this dysfunction people cannot lift their ankle so they frequently lift the leg higher at the knee and hip
  • Vestibular ataxia. This is usually related to vertigo or inner-ear conditions and causes people to walk in an unsteady manner.
  • Waddling. People with this pattern of dysfunction often walk on their toes, with a side-to-side movement.
These are some of the most commonly known dysfunctions. Yours might be different than what is listed here. You can find a more comprehensive list of gait abnormalities published by Stanford Medicine that offers a bit more insight.

How Is a Gait Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Although running shoe stores often offer a running analysis to determine the best type of running shoes, nothing compares to a gait analysis screening by a professional physical therapist. When you go in for an analysis, you will likely be asked a series of questions first, including:
  • Are you experiencing any pain while walking or running?
  • Did you recently have a fall?
  • When did you start to notice you were not walking the way you always have?
  • Is the problem with walking or running getting worse?
The physical therapist will also talk to you about your medical history, including whether or not you are on any medications.

When you first meet with the physical therapist, be prepared to describe your pain and symptoms in as detailed a manner as possible. Before your first appointment, in fact, it might be a good idea to keep a journal that outlines what activities you are doing when you are experiencing pain—whether it’s just while you are running or if the pain exists while you are walking and doing other things. Try to be as detailed as possible.

The physical therapist will conduct certain assessments to help determine the cause of your gait problems, including:
  • The physical therapist will have you walk back and forth so he or she can observe any abnormalities in your gait simply by watching you.
  • The physical therapist will check your balance to determine if you are at undue risk of a fall.
  • The physical therapist will see how fast you walk.
  • The physical therapist will test your strength and range of motion.
  • The physical therapist will test your reflexes.
  • The physical therapist will conduct sensation screenings.
Based on these assessments, he or she will try to diagnose the reason for the gait problems.

Can I Do Something to Prevent Gait Problems?

Whether or not your issue is preventable depends on the reason for it. But often getting treatment early means further issues can be prevented

What Can a Physical Therapist Do to Improve Gait?

Physical therapy is crucial in helping people improve their gait so they can walk and run again without pain. Each treatment plan is different, depending on the issues you are having the reasons behind them, but a treatment strategy might include any of the following items:
  • Pre-gait training. These include activities and exercises that have nothing to do with, such as standing and lifting your leg. But they can give you insight into improving your gait.
  • Gait training. This includes retraining the way you walk based on the underlying condition for your gait problems.
  • Balance and coordination training. These activities can help you get better balance, which will help stabilize the way you walk.
  • Neuromuscular reeducation. Your inactive muscles might need to be activated to improve your walking pattern.
  • Bracing or splinting. If a weakness in a ligament is part of your gait problem, a brace or splint might be able to help.
  • Manual therapy. Depending on the reasons for your gait problems, we might also recommend manual therapy and soft tissue mobilization.
  • Dry needling. Dry needling is crucial for pain control, muscle tension reduction, and improved biochemical motor functions.
Don’t be sidelined because of pain or discomfort. Talk to Peak Physical Therapy & Wellness about a Parker running analysis and treatment plan for runners of all ability levels. Our comprehensive running analysis has three goals: (1) tell you what you need to do to reduce your pain, (2) lower your risk of injuring yourself in the future, and (3) improving your running performance. At Peak Physical Therapy & Wellness, we will also talk to you about an appropriate training plan to help you achieve your running goals with a lot less pain.

Contact us today to find out more about a running analysis. With offices throughout the Denver metro area, including south Denver, Highlands Ranch, Lowry, Parker, Aurora, and Englewood, you can be sure that one is conveniently located near you. We look forward to working with you and helping you live a healthy, pain-free lifestyle!