What is Gait Analysis?

runner with knee injury in need of gait training

Gait analysis is used to identify movement-related abnormalities, pain, or inefficiencies when you walk or run. Gait problems can occur with or without an injury and may affect a person’s movement or balance, worsen an existing injury, or lead to a future injury.

Our MOTION PT Group physical therapists are trained on the latest approaches and technologies to evaluate your speed of movement, range of motion, balance, posture, and reflexes.

Once we identify the underlying causes of movement-related dysfunction, we design a gait training physical therapy plan to get you back to moving safely and comfortably. This is an exercise program tailored to your specific needs in order to improve your strength, balance, and movement, especially in your lower extremities.

What Causes Gait Problems?

A variety of issues can cause gait and balance problems, including, but not limited, to the following:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Trauma
  • Injury
  • Amputation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Postural problems
  • Certain medications
  • Arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Brain injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Dysfunction of ears, eyes, brain, or sensory nerves

The eyes, ears, nerves, muscles, and brain must work together efficiently to ensure healthy gait and balance. Dysfunction in one or more of these systems may adversely affect your gait.

Who Can Benefit from Gait Analysis and Gait Training?

If you have a walking or running gait that is awkward, unbalanced or causes pain, or if you are an athlete seeking to overcome an injury or other condition adversely affecting your sports performance, a gait analysis can help pinpoint abnormalities in the way you move.

Gait analysis and gait training improves your ability to stand, walk, or run, and also improves the following:

  • Balance and posture
  • Muscle memory and strength
  • Range of motion
  • Sports performance
  • Endurance
  • Cardiovascular fitness and overall health

Sometimes gait problems arise when you consciously or subconsciously alter your normal pattern to compensate for pain or injury in your body. Unfortunately, altering your normal gait may create secondary musculoskeletal or other problems that cause additional pain, dysfunction, injury. Gait problems can also lead to a decrease in cardiovascular health if you limit your physical activity for an extended period.

MOTION physical therapists are highly skilled in using gait analysis to identify walking or running problems in people of all ages and all fitness levels. Our therapists are certified in a broad range of specialties, including athletic performance and sports injury recovery programs. If you are a runner or take part in another running-related sport, gait analysis can help diagnose issues affecting your athletic performance, helping your physical therapist to better work with you to address and correct those issues.

Gait analysis and a resulting treatment plan can help reduce your risk of falls, increase your level of mobility, and gain independence even if you need to use an adaptive device like a prosthetic, walker, or cane. As you increase your mobility, you also reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and other diseases.

How Does Gait Analysis Work?

Although gait analysis has been used for decades, advancements in technology have made the process more accurate than ever before.

Your initial gait analysis begins with a comprehensive physical examination and a visual assessment of how your body moves. Your therapist will ask you to walk or run as they evaluate muscle bulk around your hip joints and look for signs of hip asymmetry and any muscle weakness that causes drooping of the pelvis, as well as signs of limping or waddling.

Gait analysis measures your gait cycle, which includes the stance phase, pre-swing phase, and the swing phase. This makes up the entire cycle as you stand, lift your foot off the ground, move the foot forward, and touch that same foot back to the ground. To accomplish the swing phase, the hip, knee, and ankle must flex in order to bring the foot off the ground and move forward.

When your physical therapist analyzes your gait cycle, they are looking at your body movement, mechanics, and muscle activity. They take into account factors like:

  • your step and stride length
  • your pronation (the way in which your foot contacts the ground)
  • your cadence (the number of steps you take in a given time period)
  • your force
  • your speed
  • your line of progression (the direction in which you travel when moving)
  • your swing time (the amount of time you require to swing your leg forward)
  • your foot and hip angle
  • your weight distribution
  • your center of pressure (the part of your foot that first comes into contact with the floor)

These factors help determine your balance and the efficiency of your movements.

Your physical therapist will use a combination of methods and tools to measure and test different aspects of your gait cycle at the start of your gait training program and throughout the program. By measuring the precise angles and degrees of your knees, ankles, and hips while you are walking or running, we can identify unique movements, determine normal gait patterns, and diagnose issues that are causing you pain or dysfunction.

Gait Training

Gait training is an exercise program designed to improve your balance, flexibility, and range of motion, and strengthen muscles, especially in the core and lower extremities.

Components of your gait training program may start with pre-gait training, where you will work on standing up and preparing to walk before working on your walking gait. Your physical therapy program will include a variety of exercises and may include the use of a stationary bike, treadmill, functional electrical stimulation, and other modalities.

Gait Analysis for Runners

If you are a runner, you have probably suffered from at least one running-related injury. Studies find more than half of all runners receive an injury each year.

Our MOTION physical therapists are experts at treating runners’ injuries and working with both professional and amateur runners to reduce the risk of future injuries.

Using gait analysis, we will evaluate your current gait, running form, and overall physical condition in order to design a program to build your strength and mobility and improve your running form.

Not a runner? No matter your sport, we can help you treat or reduce the risk of future injury and design a program to help you achieve optimum athletic performance.

Why MOTION?

Since 2015, MOTION has proudly provided transformative physical and occupational therapy services to clients of all ages. Guided by our values of compassion, empowerment, integrity, and teamwork, MOTION is dedicated to helping you reach your goals.

Our mission is to “help you get you back to what moves you.” We want you to move freely and safely as you confidently enjoy your life and to be proud of your physical abilities as you accomplish your daily activities. We want to help you develop the tools you need to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.

Contact us today to schedule an in-clinic or telehealth appointment.