Ever wondered why practitioners (physiotherapists, massage therapists and chiropractors) are always taking a look at your gait (how you walk)? Well, here are a few things that your therapist can learn from your walking pattern, and how we can help!
Everyone walks differently, and most of the time it’s normal. Other times, your gait changes because of an injury or pathology (in any part of your body), a musculoskeletal imbalance, and/or pain. Your gait and posture can indicate body structures that are weak or overactive, and can be a
contributing factor to pain in your back, hip, knees, ankles, or feet. Other factors that can alter your gait include muscle spasticity, contractures and sensory loss.
A lot of activity and muscle firing occurs with each step you take, and when it works well it is an amazing chain of events! Below is a great picture that summarizes the key muscles in action of each phase in your gait.
We asked members of the Sage team Lucy and Jason to let us know just how they use gait analysis to help them help you!
Our physiotherapy resident Lucy says that, a physiotherapist can perform a gait analysis to help determine structures that are at fault and assist you in retraining your gait if you experience symptoms related to gait abnormalities or pathologies. From stance to swing phase, it is important to ensure proper biomechanics and timely muscle firing in order to correct unwanted gait patterns. This is especially important for those who participate in sports that require dynamic stability and coordination of the whole body. On the other side of the spectrum, it is equally important to have a safe gait especially for individuals who are at risk of falling.
So how do we do this? Your physiotherapist will perform a full orthopaedic assessment including a gait analysis while taking your own personal goals into consideration. This allows your physiotherapist
to provide a personalized exercise program, which may include strengthening, stretches, balance and proprioceptive exercises.
Jason, one of our Registered Massage Therapists says that from a massage therapist’s viewpoint, looking at your gait gives him an idea about which of your soft tissues are being stressed. There are lots of things to consider when judging what the root cause(s) of your gait problem may be:
- foot posture – how does your foot sit on flat ground with and without shoes/socks on? do you use an orthotic and how does it interact with your foot? does it roll over on the ankle or flatten the arch(supinate/pronate)?
- gait abnormalities – how do the muscles around your knees, hips, spine, shoulders, arms and neck all contribute to your freedom of movement as you walk down a hallway? have you perhaps developed any patterns of strain over the time that you’ve been having problems?
- soft tissue manipulation – different massage techniques for different conditions of different muscle groups throughout the feet, legs, hips and back might be called for, and it isn’t always about heavy pressure! It’s likely that myofascial trigger points might develop as some muscles become overused to compensate for others not doing their fair share!
- arch anatomy – how does the architecture of YOUR foot affect how you stand and walk?
- if there is evidence that you might have problems in addition to just your soft tissues, a referral to a Pedorthist may be required