If you’re like most people, you probably take walking for granted until you’re forced into a medical condition that causes pain in walking or makes it difficult or even impossible to walk without a walking device. But even if you can walk unassisted, you may be unaware of your walking pattern. Do you have a normal walking pattern? Here’s what you need to know about what’s considered a normal gait, along with how physical therapy can help in correcting an abnormal walking pattern.

Health Benefits of Walking 

There continues to be a growing trend to walk at least 10,000 steps each day. Perhaps you’ve noticed that more and more people are wearing pedometers and other types of activities trackers that record the number of steps they take in a day.

But have you ever thought about why we should walk? One of the main perks of daily walking is that it’s good for your heart and blood circulation. In fact, both the American Heart Association and the Stroke Association contend that walking for as much as 30 minutes each day can be beneficial in preventing and controlling high blood pressure.

Walking can help you lose weight, besides maintain a weight loss. People who walk consistently have more energy and aren’t as prone to develop type-2 diabetes. What’s more, walking increases vitamin D intake as you’re outdoors in the sunshine. Besides helping with physical health, walking more steps each day can improve your mood and be beneficial in preventing depression and dementia. 

A Normal Walking Gait Cycle and Mechanics 

“Gait” is a term used to describe how someone walks. When a person has an abnormal gait, the body system that controls how they walk fails to work normally. This problem can occur for several reasons, such as genetic factors, injuries, illnesses, and leg or foot abnormalities.

To better understand what’s meant by a normal gait cycle, imagine a line moving forward in the direction that you’re traveling. If your gait is normal, your feet should be landing on either side of this line that moves forward in your traveling direction. However, if this isn’t the case, then you may have an abnormal gait cycle. 

Ailments That May Result from an Abnormal Walking Pattern 

Not having a normal gait can lead to several problems. For example, an abnormal gait can cause balance issues. It can result in overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, which is a painful condition affecting the bottom of a person’s foot.

Another painful health issue is iliotibial band syndrome, which involves an overuse of the connective tissues on the outer portions of the thigh and knee. It is a common ailment among bicyclists and runners. Other health conditions include those, such as arthritis in the foot or leg joints. An abnormal gait can also cause foot issues, including callus, ingrown toenail, skin sores, corns, spasms, and swelling.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Improve Gait Mechanics 

One of the best ways to correct painful walking, abnormal walking, and balance problems is by getting physical therapy.

  • Consider how a trained and highly experienced physical therapist can devise an individualized treatment plan that can focus on your specific needs and goals.
  • In most cases, treatments entail using a multidisciplinary approach.
  • Physical therapists use strength exercises, such as strengthening the ankle, hip and calf muscles to improve balance and gait.
  • They also use a range of motion exercises that are designed to decrease pain, besides restore people to their normal functioning levels and improve mobility.
  • In addition to gait training, your therapist can also help in identifying any other potential impairments for preventing further injuries or occurrences.

Other Considerations and Warnings 

  • Senior citizens are especially at risk for balance and gait dysfunctions. This is because many older people, and particularly those who live alone, aren’t as physically active or have a decrease in independence and/or stability. As a result, they’re more likely to fall during daily activities.
  • The solution or treatment for a balance or gait abnormality can depend on the source and reason for the loss of balance or gait abnormality.
  • Therefore, see a doctor for recommendations on how to treat your balance and/or gait problem.
  • You may need to restrict certain activities until your condition improves.

You don’t have to continue to suffer from painful walking or an abnormal walking pattern. Call the physical therapist specialists at Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation (570-208-2787) or email me at cawleyptfrank@gmail.com