Monday, May 24, 2010

Gait Analysis - Why Do I Care About My Gait?

Gait. It’s how you walk (or run). It’s how you move from foot to foot, swing your arms, bend your knees and twist your hips. It is a major factor in how efficiently you get from place to place. An efficient gait places less stress on the body and is therefore less likely to result in overuse injuries.

Your gait also tells us a lot about your musculoskeletal state. It tells a story of legs long or short, muscles weak or strong, or short or long. It may reveal high arches or low, feet flexible or rigid. Your gait may also open a window through which can be viewed the cause, or the result, of, back, hip, knee, foot or ankle pain and injury.

With an understanding of your musculoskeletal state, observation of the body in motion can not only lead to possible improvements in efficiency, but in many cases, lead to simple solutions to many common ailments of the foot, knee, hip and back. Correcting these abnormalities may also lead to improved performance in many movement related sports and activities.

Plantar fascitis, posterior tibial tendonitis, metatarsalgia, patello-femoral pain, trochanteric bursitis, and sacro-iliac dysfuntion, are just a few of the “diseases” that may be the result of faulty gait.

The non-surgical solutions to many challenges related to gait abnormalities may be as simple as a change in shoe wear, or as challenging as modification or elimination of an existing exercise program, combined with a dedication to a number of specific corrective exercises.

Moving Forward
Without getting into too much detail, we can think of your gait as a means to move your center of gravity (Cg) forward. A careful gait analysis will attempt to tease out all of the body’s movements that are NOT involved in moving your Cg forward.

Movements such as arms swinging across the body, and not forward, excessively pronating feet, lateral or sideways thrusts of the hip knee or ankle, are just a few examples motion which is not contributing to the overall forward progression of the body. Identifying these movements opens the door to finding solutions to improving gait.

Having identified movement abnormalities we can then begin to change the things we can, and learn how to live with those we can’t. Remedies can be as simple as changing shoe wear to shoes more appropriate for the individual gait and structure. Or, exercises to strengthen weak muscles or stretch short ones may be applicable.

In more involved cases, custom orthotics may be indicated to individualize movement enhancement. Further down the scale may be regular visits to a physical therapist to adjust muscular and/or joint restrictions and re-train musculoskeletal patterns of movement.

Still more involved cases may require surgical intervention. In any case of severe or chronically worsening pain or dysfuntion, one should consult his or her primary care practitioner for proper screening and referral to the appropriate health care practitioner.

In summary, gait analysis may be the beginning to a more efficient, less painful future.

Written by Phil Armiger
PT, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent post - very informative. Changing the demands placed on the body is often the cause of injury. Changing demands can involve simply changing the surface you run on, or changing the shoes that you run in. Large changes to activity can often lead to problematic episodes of injury.

    Here at ProGait we advocate having your gait analysed before you embark upon any of these changes, so that you can get some sound professional advice to reduce the risk of injury.