Gait analysis: A tool for safely stepping toward your movement goals

Published - Aug 29, 2022

Gait analysis: A tool for safely stepping toward your movement goals

By Alessia Eng, PTA, clinic director and physical therapist assistant at IRG Physical Therapy – Granite Falls

Gait analysis is a broad term used to describe the systematic breakdown and in-depth look at the various parts of the walking and running cycles in humans. This type of evaluation can be used to assess dynamic posture and coordination, improve general mobility, decrease pain and compensatory patterns throughout the body, and improve running efficiency and speed.

All physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are trained in gait analysis within their respective educational programs. There are several certifications available to address specific forms of gait such as for runners and those with developmental disabilities or neurological conditions.

Almost anyone can benefit from a quick look at how they move, as so many parts of the body can be influenced by the way that we walk and/or run. Everything from head to toe is involved in some aspect of the gait pattern. Often, watching a patient walk or run for a few minutes can give a provider clues as to what underlying structures and/or injuries may be contributing to an injury or area of complaint. This can help the patient and provider to form a thorough and collaborative treatment plan to help the patient reach their movement goals.

For example, if a patient experiencing knee pain was evaluated by their provider via a gait analysis, it may be found that the patient had an overpronation of their foot’s arch. Once this has been identified, a provider can suggest shoes or insert an orthotic to correct the overpronation and alleviate their knee pain.

Individuals experiencing issues such as the following may benefit from a gait analysis:

  • Neck and/or back pain
  • Hip injuries and/or pain
  • Knee injuries and/or pain
  • Ankle injuries and/or pain

Gait analysis can be as simple as a therapist watching a patient walk to and from their car, or to their treatment room, on their first visit. Alternatively, the assessment can be as formal as conducting a video analysis by filming a patient walking, jogging or running on a treadmill from multiple angles while utilizing technology such as:

  • Computerized topography software (similar to a CT scan, a type of diagnostic imaging that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce images of the inside of the body, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine)
  • Force plates (used to determine the total amount of force applied by the foot when striking the ground)
  • Slow-motion cameras

Athletes, such as runners, may find participating in a gait analysis to be of particular benefit. This tool can be used as a foundation for improving speed, cadence, endurance, efficiency, and compensatory patterns. Gait analysis can also be used as a basis for footwear recommendations as well as to recommend orthotics or other shoe inserts. A patient and their provider will establish or adjust a treatment plan as necessary based on the results of this evaluation.

Click here to schedule a gait analysis appointment with me at our IRG Physical Therapy – Granite Falls clinic, or click here to find an IRG location near you that offers this service. Our team looks forward to walking – optimally and efficiently – with you on your path toward your best self!

Alessia Eng, PTA, is a clinic director and physical therapist assistant at IRG Physical Therapy – Granite Falls with specialized training in gait analysis, vestibular rehabilitation, balance and falls prevention, biomechanical assessment, pain neuroscience education, and geriatric rehabilitation. Call IRG Physical Therapy – Granite Falls to learn more about Alessia’s service offerings at 360.691.4835, or click here to request an appointment with Alessia today.

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