What is gait training?
Physical therapists utilize gait training regularly. The term gait refers to a person’s manner of walking. Your gait cycle refers to the cycle of how you walk: Stepping, landing on one foot, rolling over that foot, and lifting the foot off the ground again.
Your physical therapist gives you a specific set of exercises that need to be implemented correctly to help you walk better. Your physical therapist will be able to adjust your movements if needed. Gait training mimics the repetitive nature of your leg movement while walking.
Training sessions last about 10 minutes and are paired with treatment that targets problem areas that may be causing the gait abnormality. Common problem areas include the hip, knee, and ankle.
What are gait abnormalities caused by?
Gait abnormalities are common in children and typically get grown out by adulthood. Many times an abnormal gait is caused by an injury that causes someone to limp in order to avoid pain. The problem with that is that avoiding weight on the part of the foot can actually amplify the current issues and lead to more chronic pain.
What are some of the different types of gait abnormalities?
Common types of abnormalities include:
- Trendelenburg gait
- High stoppage gait
- Spastic gait
- Antalgic gait (gait abnormalities due to pain)
6 benefits of gait training:
Normalize your gait pattern:
The physical therapist’s goal in gait training is to normalize your gait pattern. They will focus on heal strike and step length in order to identify the gait abnormality and decide which treatment is best for you. For example, if you only put pressure on one foot, they may use a treadmill to ensure the patient spends equal time on both legs. If a person only uses the balls of their feet to walk, they may implement stair training to correct this.
Optimize standing, walking, and running if you have functional deficits:
Your physical therapists will observe how you stand and your gait cycle to determine where you tend to put pressure. For example, someone that puts all the pressure near the balls of their feet, by the toes, may have issues in their lower back. A physical therapist may use this knowledge to treat the lower back and have you practice putting equal pressure on all parts of your feet.
Improve balance and stability as you walk and reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries:
Many gait abnormalities can make it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces, leading to an increased risk of slipping and falling injuries. A normal gait cycle allows us to adjust to surfaces that may be slippery or uneven, whereas an abnormal gait can make it hard to put the pressure down on the ground that is needed to keep a good balance. Some gait training may include strengthening leg muscles in order to support your body’s ability to stay stable enough to practice normalizing your heel strike and step length.
Reduce the risk of various illnesses:
Gait exercises often incorporate physical activities that reduce illnesses such as heart disease and osteoporosis. During gait training, almost all aspects of your body are worked:
- Muscle: Muscles are stretched and able to become more flexible, decreasing.
- Nervous system
- Cardiovascular system: Movement improves heart health.
- Blood circulation: Exercise improves blood circulation and helps carry oxygen through your bloodstream, assisting in muscular healing.
- Respiratory system: Exercise helps open the chest cavity and restores the upright position.
- Bowel and Bladder: Function is increased and digestion is enhanced, relieving pressure and shifting weight by changing your position from sitting to lying down to standing.
- Reduce pain caused by gait abnormalities.
- Gait abnormalities can lead to chronic pain. For example, when injured some people only walk on the side of their foot. With time, this causes muscle imbalance and increases stresses on the joints like the knee and hip, leading to more pain. Normalizing your gait cycle can help you avoid pain and eliminate pain caused by these stresses.
Improve cognitive, emotional, and social well-being:
Your gait pattern uses your eyes, inner eye, and the entire musculoskeletal system. Gait training takes all these systems into account so your physical therapists will give exercises that will work to balance each of these aspects.
Having a normalized gait help your confidence and helps you regain independence. Your cognitive well-being is improved by the ability to fully soak in the environment around you from a corrected upright position.
Chronic pain caused by gait abnormalities can lead to anxiety and depression because of its impact on the ability to perform daily activities. A normalized gait cycle can help overall improve mood.