A gait disorder refers to an abnormal walking pattern. Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for gait disorders.

What Is Gait Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Are you worried that someone close to you may have a gait disorder? If so, you have come to the right place for answers.

Gait disorder is a common medical problem that affects a number of people. It’s characterized by an irregular way of walking or running.

Believe it or not, it can be related to mental health conditions, neurological disorders, aging, and other factors. As a result, it’s important to get it treated as soon as possible – the sooner, the better.

What are some gait disorder symptoms? How does gait disorder treatment work? Keep reading, and we will answer all of your questions.


Examining the Gait Disorders Symptoms

Gait disorder refers to a variety of conditions that affect a person’s ability to walk and move. The symptoms of gait disorder can include difficulty initiating or stopping walking. It can also show unsteadiness or loss of balance and abnormal gait patterns such as shuffling or limping. 

Other symptoms are weakness or numbness in the legs and frequent falls or trips. These symptoms can impact mobility, independence, and quality of life.

Knowing Gait Disorder Causes

Gait disorder symptoms can be varied, with some being more severe than others. Causes of gait disorders may include neurological conditions such as movement disorders, stroke, brain trauma, and other medical conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia.

Parkinson’s Disease

The motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease are tremors, rigidity, and difficulty with movement and balance. These can affect a person’s gait and coordination. Parkinson’s disease can cause a shuffling gait.

The person takes short, hesitant steps and may have difficulty initiating or stopping movements.


Depending on the location and severity of the stroke, it can affect a person’s ability to walk and move properly. A stroke can cause weakness or paralysis in one side of the body, making it difficult to move and balance properly.

Additionally, strokes can affect the sensory and motor systems that control walking, leading to gait disorders such as dragging the feet or uneven steps.

Multiple Sclerosis

MS can cause damage to the myelin sheath, the protective covering around nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This damage can lead to muscle weakness, spasticity, and loss of coordination. This can result in gait disorders.

MS can also cause foot drop. It is where the foot hangs down and drags while walking. It can also cause spastic gait, where the person walks with stiff, jerky movements.


Arthritis, an inflammatory condition that affects the joints, can cause gait disorder. Arthritis can lead to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, which can affect a person’s ability to walk and move properly, leading to an abnormal gait.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can cause gait disorder due to damage to the nerves that control leg movements. This damage can lead to paralysis or weakness in the legs, resulting in difficulty walking or standing.

Understanding the Different Types of Gait Disorder

Gait disorder is a broad term that describes various conditions that affect a person’s ability to walk and move. There are several types of gait disorders.

One common type of gait disorder is spastic gait. It is characterized by stiff, jerky movements and dragging of the feet while walking. Spastic gait is often associated with conditions such as cerebral palsy, stroke, and multiple sclerosis.

Another type of gait disorder is ataxic gait. It is characterized by uncoordinated, wobbly movements while walking. 

Ataxic gait can be caused by neurological conditions such as cerebellar ataxia. It affects the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination.

A shuffling gait characterizes Parkinsonian gait. The person takes short, hesitant steps and may have difficulty initiating or stopping movements. Parkinsonian gait is often associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Foot drop is where the person has difficulty lifting the front of the foot, causing it to drag while walking. Foot drop can be caused by nerve damage, spinal cord injury, or muscular dystrophy.

Exploring Gait Disorder Treatments

Treatments for gait disorders vary according to the cause. Some treatments may include physical therapy, walking aids, orthotic devices, or medications. Surgery or implantable devices may sometimes be necessary for optimal results.

Exploring treatment options for gait disorders can help to improve mobility. It can reduce pain and cut any further limitations caused by the gait disorder.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles, improve coordination and balance. It can foster better movement strategies. Physical therapists can show stretching and strengthening exercises.

They can provide age-appropriate activities to promote balance and coordination. Also, they can educate the patient and caregivers on proper posture and body mechanics. It is to prevent further injury and improve well-being.


Medication use may reduce pain, and spasticity, or enhance joint range of motion. Anticoagulants and anti-inflammatory drugs are the two most common medications prescribed for gait disorders.

Anticoagulants can prevent blood clots from forming, thus helping reduce the risk of a fall. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce swelling and inflammation, reducing pain and improving mobility.

Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies such as canes, walkers, and even exoskeletons can help those with gait disorders. It can improve their balance and increase muscle strength needed for walking.

Splints and braces can assist with better alignment and increased stability. Orthotic devices can help to reduce abnormal muscle activation and stride length.

Surgical Procedures

A common form of treatment is palliative surgery. It may temporarily relieve pain and other symptoms. But, with severe cases, more invasive procedures may be necessary.

In two of the most common gait disorders, congenital myopathies and spasticity, surgical procedures known as Rhizotomy and derotation osteotomies may be necessary.

Know More About Gait Disorder Today

Gait disorder can negatively impact the quality of life of someone with the condition. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to help. Treatment can range from correcting posture and muscle weakness to prescription medication.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, discuss with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.

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