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Walking abnormalities

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   

Gait abnormalities

Definition    Return to top

Walking abnormalities are unusual and uncontrollable walk patterns, usually caused by diseases or injuries to the legs, feet, brain, spine, or inner ear.

Considerations    Return to top

The pattern of how a person walks is called their gait. Many different types of walking abnormalities are produced unconsciously. Most, but not all, are due to some physical condition.

Some walking abnormalities are so characteristic that they have been given descriptive names:

Causes    Return to top

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

This list is not all-inclusive.


Home Care    Return to top

Treatment of the cause often improves the gait. For example, gait abnormalities from trauma to part of the leg will improve as the leg heals.

For an abnormal gait that occurs with conversion disorder, psychiatric counseling as well as support from family members is strongly recommended.

For a propulsive gait:

For a scissors gait: For a spastic gait: For a steppage gait: For a waddling gait, follow the prescribed therapy.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

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

What to Expect at Your Office Visit    Return to top

The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting the problems with walking in detail may include:

The physical examination will probably include neurological examination. Diagnostic tests will be determined by the results of the physical examination workup and observation of the gait abnormalities.

References    Return to top

Griggs R, Jozefowicz R, Aminoff M. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 418.

Timmann D, Diener H. Coordination and ataxia. In: Goetz, CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 17.

Update Date: 3/26/2009

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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