The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Is Texting While Walking Screwing Up Your Gait?

Posted by on Monday, April 25th, 2016

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We’ve all seen funny YouTube videos of trips, falls, and face-plants from hapless victims texting while walking. While it’s funny to watch, texting while walking is such a serious problem you could possibly go to jail for it in New Jersey. Legal repercussions aren’t the only reason it’s dangerous – it poses an even greater risk of physical injury.

texting while walking
Texting while walking can be dangerous and sometimes illegal. (Image Source: Flickr CC user Garry Knight)

What Are the Short-Term Risks of Texting While Walking?

  • Texting while walking is responsible for 9% of all pedestrian injuries, according to a 2013 study published in Accident: Analysis and PreventionThe number of texting accidents nearly tripled from 2004 to 2010.
  • An experiment found people were 48% more likely to walk into traffic while on their cell phones.
  • At least six people die every year while absorbed in their electronic devices on a walk.
  • An American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons survey of more than 2,000 adults found that 40% of respondents had “witnessed a distracted walking incident resulting in an injury,” while 25% had been personally involved in a texting-while-walking accident.

How Does Texting While Walking Affect Gait Patterns?

Texting has long-term effects on a person’s gait. Italian researchers found that individuals texting while walking had differing patterns of muscle activation. According to Lower Extremity Review Magazine, texting while walking was also linked with “a slower gait speed, reduced cadence and stride length, increased flat-foot contact, and decreased push-off.”

While texters generally adopt a “protective gait pattern” to lower the risk of potential accidents, researchers have noted that the “mediolateral head motion” of someone texting while walking has been linked to decreased stability and balance, as well as a greater risk of falls in older adults with Parkinson’s disease.

Possible Injuries and Risks Associated with Texting While Walking

Can texting and walking affect your gait permanently? We just don’t know yet. Here’s what we do know:

  • Walking with shorter strides can cause your calf muscles to tense up and shorten, which can lead to tendon injuries in your feet and ankles.
  • To compensate for balance discrepancies, your plantar muscles flex and dorsiflex for longer periods of time, causing a midfoot extension which can be a precursor to a Lisfranc dislocation injury.
  • It’s been hypothesized that long-term joint changes in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and knees, which occur when people adopt differing gaits over time, may lead to more foot and ankle problems.

NYC Foot and Ankle Injury Treatment and Prevention

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine specializes in treatment and prevention of all foot and ankle injuries. One of the highlights of our locations in Manhattan and Westchester are our state-of-the-art gait analysis centers. Examining changes while people text and walk is not a standard measurement we assess, but we can certainly take a look if you’re one of the guilty-as-charged and wish to know how your habits are affecting you.

We can capture a myriad of data to determine your gait patterns and see how different factors may be contributing to your physical pain. Our board-certified podiatrists can create custom orthotics to change the way you walk and decrease your risk of injury, and our physical therapy team can work with you to address gait imperfections that open you to injury. We offer counseling on shoe choice, treat acute pain using the most modern techniques (including platelet rich plasma and ultrasound), and help patients bounce back from injuries to resume active lives.

Contact us to schedule your appointment.

 

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. 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.