Gait Analysis: A Few Steps Can Tell You a Lot

454with Dr. Eric Keene PT, DPT, CSCS  

Over the years, I’ve developed a new habit: I’m always observing people.  I suppose that can come off sounding strange; but, as a Functional Manual Physical Therapist observing movement can tell you a lot about an individual’s health and resiliency against injury.  Amongst standing and sitting posture, gait analysis is one of my favorite things to observe.  Even the smallest injuries can be detected by watching someone walk.  For example, let’s say that you sprained your ankle a few years ago.   Maybe it wasn’t too serious and you managed it yourself and it healed on its own.  If your ankle is missing dorsiflexion (bending forward), then your heel can rise early, knee bend sooner, and lack hip extension in gait.  This can translate further up your body and lead to back pain.

How does that make sense? Basically, our body is like a clock.  Each part of the clock has its role in keeping perfect time.  If one part of the clock isn’t functioning the way it should be, one day it might be a minute off and you barely notice it.  But overtime, it can become 5 minutes off, 10 minutes off, and even an hour off.  If you sprained your ankle and didn’t manage it properly, your body will compensate to make up for the spot that isn’t doing its job. This can cause pain in other areas distant from the sight of original injury.

Efficient gait is pelvis driven – in an elliptical motion. Whether it’s walking, running, or sprinting, the pelvis should drive the rest of the trunk and extremities.  When the right leg leaves the ground, the pelvis should move up and forward (anterior elevation). When you reach towards the ground, the pelvis moves down and forward (anterior depression).  When you stand over your leg and push off, the pelvis should move down and back (posterior depression).  The pelvis should also reciprocate with the shoulder blade, causing trunk rotation with walking.  Observing these subtle movements can actually identify if your core is firing efficiently or not.

If you’re sitting here thinking, “man, I don’t think my walking looks like that at all”, don’t worry – there’s things you can do to make your walking more efficient.  But, it’s not a one size fits all prescription –  it depends what’s inhibiting your gait.  It could be your locked up ankle, or that you tend to hyperextend at your spine when you walk.  Recognizing what’s driving the inefficient gait, fixing it, and reintegrating the new mobility into the body can help you to minimize your risk of injury and move pain-free.  Who knows, if we can manage to get all our parts fixed, we too can keep perfect time.

Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services.  Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more 

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