Gait disturbance means a person does not walk normally. Also known as gait abnormality or disorder, this condition often results from a neurological problem.
Older people are especially vulnerable, and gait disturbances can result in falls and serious injuries. That, in turn, leads to loss of independence and possible nursing home admission.
If you experience a gait or coordination issue, it is crucial to see a Tampa Bay spinal cord doctor as soon as possible. If you develop a gait disturbance after a head injury, seek immediate medical attention.
The normal gait requires coordination of various body systems. The sensory, cognitive, and motor functions must all come together for an individual to move normally. The normal gait consists of stance and swing phases. One leg provides support – the stance – while the other leg swings, then the order is reversed as the body moves forward.
Diseases or conditions resulting in gait disturbances include:
- Back or neck pain
- Cervical spondylosis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Myasthenia gravis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Spinal decompression
- Spinal stenosis
- Vestibular neuritis
- Vision problems.
Fear of Falling
Gait disturbances may have more than one cause. Incidences of gait disturbance rise markedly as people age. At 60, approximately 85 percent of the population walks normally, but that falls to 20 percent of 85-year-olds.
Falls, frequently due to gait disturbance, are a leading cause of impairment or death for the elderly. Anxiety from fear of falling can also cause an older patient to develop gait abnormalities. An individual should consult with a back pain doctor in Tampa Bay if they believe they are struggling with such an ailment.
While difficulty walking is the most obvious symptom of a gait disturbance, it is not the only one. Sometimes walking itself is not the issue, but the patient cannot move quickly. Some patients cannot maintain their gait.
When diagnosing an individual with gait disturbance, the doctor will observe the patient’s gait. The type of gait may reveal the underlying cause of the abnormality. Simple exercises, such as a timed test to determine how long it takes a patient to get out of a chair or other small motor task, may be conducted. A medical history is taken.
The patient is asked if they can negotiate stairs, get in and out of the bathtub, and perform similar aspects of daily life. The doctor also needs a list of the patient’s medications, as some drugs can cause dizziness or other side effects leading to gait disorders.
Diagnostic tests for gait disturbances include MRIs and CT scans.
Treatment for gait disturbance depends upon the diagnosis. If arthritis is the culprit, the doctor may recommend over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen to ease pain. If anxiety contributes to the gait disturbance, the doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication.
Some patients may require temporary or permanent mobility aids, such as a cane, walker or wheelchair. Such aids are especially prudent in patients with a high risk of falling.
The doctor may recommend physical therapy, concentrating on balance, and strength training. Therapy is also specific to any component of the patient’s gait disturbance, whether that is physical, sensory or neurological.
In some cases, surgery may restore normal gait functioning.
Benefit of a Doctor
If you are experiencing gait disturbances, contact a Tampa Bay spinal cord doctor today and make an appointment for an examination.