Each time we take a step, we may think we’re just putting one foot in front of the other. However, there’s a complex coordination of bodily systems at work to make the movement happen, including coordination, strength, and sensation. If one or more systems don’t function properly, it can significantly impact a person’s gait — or how they walk.
With his expertise in orthopaedic medicine, Dr. Eric E. Johnson can identify, diagnose, and correct numerous musculoskeletal conditions that can cause an abnormal gait. Here’s what can cause changes in how you walk and how Dr. Johnson can help at his practice in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Gait disorder basics
When you walk, your body gets propelled forward with the help of balanced and coordinated muscle movements. The rhythm of this movement is known as stride, and it creates a specific pattern of walking — or gait.
Anyone can experience abnormal gait patterns from time to time. For instance, you might pull a muscle or develop a blister on one foot, which causes you to walk in an unusual way. Even poorly fitting shoes can disrupt how you walk.
However, your chances of developing a persistent gait disorder increase with age. This is often because of older individuals having higher incidences of conditions that can affect how they walk. Plus, they often have weaker muscles, less muscle coordination, and a more delayed reaction than those in their younger years.
Other causes of gait disorders include:
- Leg or foot conditions and injuries
- Inner ear problems
- Degenerative diseases, like arthritis
- Neurological conditions
Hip problems, like incorrectly healed bones — or malunions — can also affect your gait.
Since gate disorders can have so many causes, it’s important to work with an expert to identify what could be behind your symptoms.
Types of gait disorders
Gait disorders often have distinctive characteristics that can offer clues to their cause, such as:
- Propulsive gait: a stooping, rigid posture with a forward head and neck bend
- Scissors gait: thighs and knees have scissor-like action while walking, causing a crouched appearance
- Spastic gait: a walk with one dragged, stiff leg
- Steppage gait: a high leg lift in which the foot drops and toes scrape the ground
- Waddling gait: an exaggerated movement of the trunk, causing a duck-like waddle
Each gait disorder has a different form of treatment, so an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward improving your symptoms. It’s also crucial to work with an expert to work on fall prevention methods, as an abnormal gait can increase your chances of injury through falling.
Diagnosing and treating gate disorders
Dr. Johnson can diagnose most gait disorders during a comprehensive examination. First, he watches you walk to look for clues to your disorder. Then Dr. Johnson might:
- Check to see if your legs are of equal length
- Assess muscle tone, strength, and coordination
- Evaluate your blood pressure and vision to rule out underlying medical conditions
- Look for spine and neck deformities
Based on your symptoms, Dr. Johnson could also order additional imaging studies, bloodwork, and check for signs of arthritis or neurological disorders.
After reaching a diagnosis, Dr. Johnson can outline the best treatment strategy to improve your symptoms. Therapies for gait disorders range from assistive devices and physical therapy to shoe lifts, splints, or leg braces.
Dr. Johnson also performs osteotomy procedures to correct structural issues behind gait disorders, like hip malunions.
If you have hip pain or an abnormal gait, Dr. Johnson could have solutions. Contact his practice in Westwood, Los Angeles to schedule a consultation by calling 310-206-1169 today.