In a clinical setting, gait analysis is an important factor that physical therapists use to evaluate movement.
Gait can be used to assess functional movement, including:
- Stride Distance
- Gait Cycle
- Momentum Control
- Limb and Trunk Motion
- Weight Transfer
- Running Style
- Foot Placement
Observing and measuring these attributes gives the practitioner valuable information about how a patient is recovering from injury. Any patient who has had a long lapse from running or is training toward a new goal will benefit from a thorough assessment of how their legs, knees, ankles, and feet move with the rest of their body. Gait is one of the most noticeable body movements to be altered when an athlete is favoring one side over another. But even if a limp is noticeable, it is difficult to assess how severe an injury is or how effective treatments have been when recovering from a recent injury. Gait dysfunctions are related to many different types of underlying conditions. Practitioners have used different strategies and tools when diagnosing gait dysfunctions, such as:
Observation ‘A patient walks back and forth so the PT can observe any abnormalities in the patient’s gait pattern.’
Gait Speed Measurements ‘This is when the PT times a patient’s walking speed.’
Balance Tests ‘Balance relates directly to risk of falling. Also, balance is affected when any lower body injury is healing, meaning a patient will favor one side over the other.’
Motor Control ‘A patient’s muscles must work in unison to propel them forward or backward.’ When this is out of sync, or if the patient is compensating for an injury, it will be noticeable through motor control.
Range of Motion Measurements ‘This test helps determine whether the dysfunction is related to musculoskeletal limitations.’