Gait analysis is an assessment of the way the body moves, usually by walking or running, from one place to another. The purpose of gait analysis is to detect any abnormalities in locomotion. An individual's gait is a combination of complex functions involving use of the body's visual, somatosensory and vestibular systems. Problems within any of these systems, as well as problems in the joints involved, can lead to postural and gait abnormalities.
The gait analysis procedure usually takes 2 to 4 hours. Patients must be able to take 10 consecutive steps without any assistance in order for an an effective evaluation to be performed.
Reasons for Gait Analysis
Gait abnormalities involve unusual walking patterns that may be caused by disease or injury. Such irregularities can lead to pain in the hips, back, neck, feet, knees or ankles. Gait analysis, also known as walking or motion analysis, is a comprehensive evaluation of the way an individual stands and walks. This analysis can help:
- Identify the source of muscle, nerve or skeletal problems
- Discover the source of a patient's pain while standing or walking
- Help to diagnose bone deformities or skeletal misalignments
- Assist in discovering muscle or nerve dysfunction
- Check the progression of diseases like arthritis or muscular dystrophy
Gait analysis, as a noninvasive method of detection, is of great value in identifying certain medical conditions, determining whether further testing is required, and illuminating possible treatment options.
Types of Gait Analysis
Gait analysis, though sometimes performed through simple observation, can now be performed with the help of advanced technology. By analyzing the data provided by several devices, the patient's gait can be evaluated in terms of step length, stride length, cadence, cycle time and joint angles. Clinical gait analysis uses several different methods including:
- Computerized video cameras to show movement in slow motion
- Markers placed on the skin to monitor motion on camera
- Sensors on a platform to measure footstep pressure and stride length
- Electrodes placed on skin to monitor muscle movement
- Infrared markers to measure joint movement in three dimensions
By recording any gait abnormalities, the analysis increases the breadth of physical examination, though of course patient history and current medical condition must still be carefully considered.