Am I Walking Funny? Get a Gait Analysis to Understand What Your Walk Says About Your Health
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, April 8th, 2016
Patients come to our NYC gait analysis center, wondering, “Do I walk funny?” or “Do I walk weird?” Often, we meet with competitive runners looking to improve their stride or prevent injury. Indeed, our trained eyes can tell a lot about you based on your gait, stride, posture, and pace. Our computerized gait analysis technology can tell even more.
The Slow Walk: Shorter Life Expectancy Or Parkinson’s?
We would never give you the prognosis of an early death if you shuffle slowly into our office, but a University of Pittsburgh analysis of nine studies including 36,000 subjects over age 65 found that those who walked slower were more likely to die earlier. The average walker moved at 3 feet per second (2 mph). Those who walked faster survived longer than predicted, while those who walked slower (1.36 mph) had an increased risk of dying.
Another report published in 2006 in JAMA looked at more than 3,000 subjects in their seventies and found that people who couldn’t walk a quarter mile had a 29% higher rate of mortality, 20% higher rate of cardiovascular disease, and 52% higher rates of mobility limitation and disability in the years to follow.
Another thing we look out for is a “shuffling” gait. It’s not just the inevitable walk of an older person. It’s distinctly linked to Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s take short, hesitant steps, and have difficulty lifting the foot.
So if you’re walking slowly for no apparent reason, we may recommend that you have more tests done to see if you are suffering from an underlying condition in need of treatment, or we may find a reason while assessing your feet and ankles.
The Short Stride: Poor Balance, Joint Injury, or Neuropathy?
Maintaining your balance requires that you coordinate your visual and inner ear systems with your proprioception system of joint receptors and connective tissue. Active people generally have excellent receptors in the connective tissue and better balance. Often, in the elderly, we see short strides in combination with balance problems, particularly on turns, stairs, or when maneuvering around objects.
Short strides are also seen in patients with knee or hip joint degeneration. People with full range of motion have straight knees and hips at the heel strike point of the gait cycle. Degeneration in these joints must be addressed with manual physical therapy at the very least.
Another cause of poor balance is peripheral neuropathy nerve damage related to diabetes, alcohol abuse, or vitamin deficiencies. Addressing these underlying causes will help improve your health — and your stride!
Flat Stepping: Collapsed Arches, Bunions, or Neuromas?
Flat feet are a common abnormality. Genetic “fallen arches” are the most common cause of a flat stepping pattern, where there is virtually no lift in the foot during the gait cycle. However, we often see heels that shift toward the inside, causing the toes to flex inward to create better stability. It could be a painful bony enlargement at the big toe joint or a thickened nerve in the ball of the feet (Morton’s neuroma) causing changes to a person’s gait. We specialize in the treatment of both these disorders — either through surgery or non-invasive measures.
The Bouncy Walk: Tight Calf Muscles?
A bouncing gait is something we never like to see. Tight calf muscles cause patients to move from the heel to forefoot a little too quickly. We especially see this in women who confess to “living in heels.” The concern about a tight calf muscle is that it’s a precursor to many different types of foot and ankle injuries, including Achilles tendon injuries, plantar fasciitis, and ankle sprains. We can advise you on better shoe choices or take you through a physical therapy regimen that will improve your gait and protect you from injury down the road.
Gait Analysis in NYC
Put your concerns that you may have a “weird walk” to rest by coming to see NYC podiatrists. We highly recommend gait analysis for anyone with a propensity for injury or for anyone looking to prevent injury and improve their overall health, whether you’re a young runner or an older active person. Learn more about what we can do for you here.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.