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Checking your Brain for Gait Concerns: June 13, 2019

You do it in a second without even thinking---but doctors say there’s a lot that has to happen before you take a step. “The brain has to fire and say you want to walk. It has to stimulate the part of the brain that is responsible for making a step. It has to go down the brain stem to the spinal cord. It has to go through the neuromuscular junction and then stimulate the nerve and then go to the muscle,” explained Dr. Jon Brillman, a neurologist with Lee Health.

But if people are having trouble with their balance or their gait, doctors may use blood work and brain images to determine where the problem starts. “There are orthopedic problems, diseases of the spine, diseases of the hips, there are aches and pains, there’s loss of proprioception, there’s neuropathy that affects the feet, there are disturbances of vestibular function, so you might have dizziness that affects your walking,” Dr. Brillman said.

Other times, things like age and vitamin deficiencies can cause gait problems. “As you get older, to be honest, the brain shrinks, and the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking is affected, as well as walking,” he said.

Determining what’s causing the problem can help patients get the treatment they need before they have a serious accident. “It is very common, especially in our patient population in South Florida. Many of these people are on blood thinners too, and that, of course, exacerbates the problem should they fall because it could bleed into their hip or get a blood clot on their brain,” said Dr. Brillman. Making it important to address with your doctor any changes to your balance or gait.


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