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Walking abnormalities are unusual and uncontrollable walking patterns.

They are usually due to


diseases or injuries to the legs, feet, brain, spinal cord, or inner ear.

Considerations
The pattern of how a person walks is called the gait. Different types of walking problems occur
without a person's control. Most, but not all, are due to a physical condition.
Some walking abnormalities have been given names:

Propulsive gait -- a stooped, stiff posture with the head and neck bent forward

Scissors gait -- legs flexed slightly at the hips and knees like crouching, with the knees and
thighs hitting or crossing in a scissors-like movement

Spastic gait -- a stiff, foot-dragging walk caused by a long muscle contraction on one side

Steppage gait -- foot drop where the foot hangs with the toes pointing down, causing the
toes to scrape the ground while walking, requiring someone to lift the leg higher than normal
when walking

Waddling gait -- a duck-like walk that may appear in childhood or later in life

Abnormal gait may be caused by diseases in many different areas of the body.
General causes of abnormal gait may include:

Arthritis of the leg or foot joints

Conversion disorder (a psychological disorder)

Foot problems (such as a callus, corn, ingrown toenail, wart, pain, skin sore, swelling, or
spasms)

Fracture

Injections into muscles that causes soreness in the leg or buttocks

Infection

Injury

Legs that are different lengths

Myositis

Shin splints

Shoe problems

Tendonitis

Torsion of the testis

This list does not include all causes of abnormal gait.


CAUSES OF SPECIFIC GAITS

Propulsive gait:
o

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Manganese poisoning

Parkinson's disease

Use of certain drugs including phenothiazines, haloperidol, thiothixene, loxapine, and


metoclopramide (usually drug effects are temporary)

Spastic (scissors) gait:


o

Brain abscess

Brain or head trauma

Brain tumor

Cerebrovascular accident (stroke)

Cerebral palsy

Cervical spondylosis with myelopathy (a problem with the vertebrae in the neck)

Liver failure

Multiple sclerosis

Pernicious anemia

Spinal cord trauma

Spinal cord tumor

Syphilitic meningomyelitis

Syringomyelia

Steppage gait:
o

Guillain-Barre syndrome

Herniated lumbar disk

Multiple sclerosis

Muscle weakness of the tibia

Peroneal neuropathy

Poliomyelitis

Spinal cord injury

Waddling gait:
o

Congenital hip dysplasia

Muscular dystrophy

Muscle disease (myopathy)

Spinal muscle atrophy

Ataxic or broad-based gait


o

Acute cerebellar ataxia

Alcohol intoxication

Brain injury

Damage to nerve cells in the cerebellum of the brain (cerebellar degeneration)

Medications (phenytoin and other seizure medications)

Polyneuropathy (damage to many nerves, as occurs with diabetes)

Stroke

Home Care
Treating the cause often improves the gait. For example, gait abnormalities from trauma to part of
the leg will improve as the leg heals.
Physical therapy almost always helps with short-term or long-term gait disorders. Therapy will
reduce the risk of falls and other injuries.
For an abnormal gait that occurs with conversion disorder, counseling and support from family
members are strongly recommended.
For a propulsive gait:

Encourage the person to be as independent as possible.

Allow plenty of time for daily activities, especially walking. People with this problem are likely
to fall because they have poor balance and are always trying to catch up.

Provide walking assistance for safety reasons, especially on uneven ground.

See a physical therapist for exercise therapy and walking retraining.

For a scissors gait:

People with a scissors gait often lose skin sensation. Skin care should be used to avoid skin
sores.

Leg braces and in-shoe splints can help keep the foot in the right position for standing and
walking. A physical therapist can supply these and provide exercise therapy, if needed.

Medications (muscle relaxers, anti-spasticity medications) can reduce the muscle


overactivity.

For a spastic gait:

Exercises are encouraged.

Leg braces and in-shoe splints can help keep the foot in the right position for standing and
walking. A physical therapist can supply these and provide exercise therapy, if needed.

A cane or a walker is recommended for those with poor balance.

Medications (muscle relaxers, anti-spasticity medications) can reduce the muscle


overactivity.

For a steppage gait:

Get enough rest. Fatigue can often cause a person to stub a toe and fall.

Leg braces and in-shoe splints can help keep the foot in the right position for standing and
walking. A physical therapist can supply these and provide exercise therapy, if needed.

For a waddling gait, follow the treatment your health care provider prescribed.