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Walking abnormalities

Gait abnormalities

Walking abnormalities are unusual and uncontrollable walking patterns. They are usually due to diseases or injuries to the legs, feet, brain, spinal cord, or inner ear.

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Considerations

The pattern of how a person walks is called the gait. Different types of walking problems occur without a person's control. Most, but not all, are due to a physical condition.

Some walking abnormalities have been given names:

Causes

Abnormal gait may be caused by diseases in different areas of the body.

General causes of abnormal gait may include:

This list does not include all causes of abnormal gait.

CAUSES OF SPECIFIC GAITS

Propulsive gait:

Spastic or scissors gait:

Steppage gait:

Waddling gait:

Ataxic, or broad-based, gait:

Magnetic gait:

Home Care

Treating the cause often improves the gait. For example, gait abnormalities from trauma to part of the leg will improve as the leg heals.

Physical therapy almost always helps with short-term or long-term gait disorders. Therapy will reduce the risk of falls and other injuries.

For an abnormal gait that occurs with conversion disorder, counseling and support from family members are strongly recommended.

For a propulsive gait:

For a scissors gait:

For a spastic gait:

For a steppage gait:

For a waddling gait, follow the treatment your health care provider prescribed.

For a magnetic gait due to hydrocephalus, walking may improve after the brain swelling is treated.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If there is any sign of uncontrollable and unexplained gait abnormalities, call your provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions may include:

The physical examination will include muscle, bone, and nervous system examination. The provider will decide which tests to do based on the results of the physical examination.

Related Information

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References

Magee DJ. Assessment of gait. In: Magee DJ, ed. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 14.

Thompson PD, Nutt JG. Gait disorders. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 24.

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Review Date: 3/13/2019  

Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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