Walking is a complex function that involves the cooperative use of the body’s visual, somatosensory and vestibular systems. Problems within any of these systems, as well as problems in the joints involved can lead to walking or gait abnormalities and can result in pain, poor posture or deformity.
Gait abnormalities involve unusual walking patterns that may be caused by disease or injury and can lead to pain in the feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, back or neck. Gait analysis, also known as a walking or motion analysis, is a comprehensive evaluation of the way a patient stands and walks. This analysis can help identify the source of muscle, nerve or skeletal problems, as well as check the progress of disease like cerebral palsy or arthritis. Pain while standing or walking can often be a result of bone deformities, movement restrictions, muscle weakness, nerve dysfunction, skeletal misalignments or contracture complications.
Gait Analysis is used to help treat people who are having difficulty walking or running. Gait analysis can be performed through simple observation or with the help of advanced technologic equipment. Originally, gait analyses were observed with the foot doctor’s naked eye. At the Center, the foot doctors use a treadmill with 5000 pressure/force sensors and a computerized video camera to measure motion. The treadmill captures, tracks and analyzes the pressure and force of each step. This identifies where a person’s structural imperfection originates, so that a specific treatment plan can be devised.
The gait analysis procedure is designed to measure a patient’s step length, stride length, cadence and cycle time, as well as the joint angle measurements. This is all observed at a normal walking speed and at high speeds to determine whether certain activities are recurring or abnormal. Several types of procedures are performed in order to take these measurements. Some of the procedures the doctors use include:
Foot step analysis- measured by sensors on a mat which then calculate walking pattern and speed, stride length and step time
Force and pressure measurements- creates images of how much force and pressure are exerted while walking from measuring plates in the floor
3D motion analysis- measures the movement of the joints by placing infrared markers to then analyze on video
Slow motion video- slow motion cameras allow for a more detailed analysis
Aside from just observing any gait abnormalities, the analysis also assists in identifying the cause of the problem and suggesting treatment options. It provides another aspect to the physical examination to help your doctor better understand the condition. Patient history and current medical condition are still taken into great consideration despite the technological strength of the computerized process.
The analysis procedure usually takes one hour. Patients must be able to take ten consecutive steps without any assistance in order to achieve effective results. It is important to bring any relevant medical records and test results, as well as being prepared for walking with shorts and your normal footwear.
Your foot doctor will work with a team of specialists in order to evaluate the results and come up with the best treatment plan for your individual condition. Gait analysis can be a very beneficial test, as it provides a much more detailed evaluation than a physical examination and imaging tests. Since many conditions are worse when walking, standing, or running analyzing the body in its natural state can be very effective. The treatments designed from the results of the analysis can vary depending on the type of the condition.