Site Map

Walking abnormalities

Gait abnormalities

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:

Causes

Abnormal gait may be caused by diseases in different areas of the body.

General causes of abnormal gait may include:

This list does not include all causes of abnormal gait.

CAUSES OF SPECIFIC GAITS

Propulsive gait:

Spastic or scissors gait:

Steppage gait:

Waddling gait:

Ataxic, or broad-based, gait:

Magnetic gait:

Home Care

Treating the underlying 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 for 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:

For a scissors gait:

For a spastic gait:

For a steppage gait:

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

For a magnetic gait due to hydrocephalus, walking may improve after the brain swelling is treated.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If there is any sign of uncontrollable and unexplained gait abnormalities, call your provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions may include:

The physical examination will include muscle, bone, and nervous system examination. The provider will decide which tests to do based on the results of the physical examination.

Related Information

Dizziness
Central nervous system
Multiple sclerosis
Cerebral palsy
Muscular dystrophy
Myositis
Arthritis
Warts
Bunions
Ingrown toenail

References

Magee DJ, Manske RC. Assessment of gait. In: Magee DJ, Manske RC, eds. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 7th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2021:chap 14.

Thompson PD, Nutt JG. Gait disorders. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 25.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 1/28/2021  

Reviewed By: Evelyn O. Berman, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2021 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.