A gait abnormality is a divergence from normal walking. When a person walks, their body relies on proper functioning from their ears, eyes, brain, muscles, and sensory nerves. Without its complete cooperation, walking issues can occur, which can lead to more significant problems such as falling and injuring yourself. As a healthcare provider, you’re aware that this can happen at any age, but gait disorders can be more common in older adults.

Causes of gait disorders in older adults

There are two kinds of interruptions when it comes to gait issues; temporary complications and long-term difficulties. Temporary complications can occur from injury, trauma, inflammation, and pain. While these can disrupt day-to-day tasks and gait, those disruptions subside when the temporary complications are treated. In fact, it’s the longer-term gait problems that often result from muscular neurological issues. Some of those include joint pain (or conditions, such as arthritis), multiple sclerosis, Meniere’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, gout, spinal cord compression, brain tumor, obesity, vertigo, and vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Symptoms of gait disorders you should look for

If you have a patient that’s experiencing problems with gait, balance, and/or coordination, and they have dizziness, limb weakness, tremors, and frequent missteps, there might be a more significant issue. If their walking improves when they change the rhythm, speed, direction, or weight distribution, you might want to consider referring them to a specialist.

How gait disorders are diagnosed

To diagnose gait, balance, and coordination problems, we recommend giving your patient a physical and neurological examination. For a more in-depth study, ProtoKinetics suggests its Gait Analysis System that includes the Zeno Walkway Mat and proprietary PKMAS software. This walking gait analysis system helps clinicians and researchers identify deviations in gait function to assess better the baselines and progressions of many neurologic and geriatric conditions; the function of orthotics and prosthetics; knee and hip replacements; and injury rehabilitation. While objective walking gait analysis data can demonstrate clinical significance, patient reports, observation, and exams may mark no change at all.

Standard gait disorder treatments

Treatment plans can range from medications and assistive devices, such as leg braces, crutches, canes, to physical therapy and surgery. While assistive devices, medicine, therapy, and surgery may not correct their gait issue, they can at least reduce the severity of symptoms.

Next steps

As gait disorders become more and more common in older adults, regular quantitative walking gait analysis is a critical tool in discovering the leading indicators. If your patient is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult the ProtoKinetics website for information on the Zeno Walkway Mat and PKMAS software, and/or to find nearby facilities that have access to both.