Gait analysis is a technique that investigates how a person stands and walks. A detailed analysis of the way an individual stands and walks can reveal the source of muscle, nerve, or skeletal problems.
Standing and walking properly involves a chain of complex actions. Our bodies must integrate sensory feedback from the visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems to properly coordinate our muscles to prevent us from falling. Gait analysis is a descriptive tool that can help us better understand how each of these systems contributes to the way one stands and walks.
Presently, we are focusing our gait consultation on the following two areas:
- Subjects who are at risk for developing diabetic foot complications
- Subjects with sports-related injuries
Finding problems in gait can be the key to identifying the cause of pain in the feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, back, or neck. Gait analysis can help determine underlying problems such as bone deformities, movement restrictions, muscle weakness, nerve dysfunction, skeletal or joint malalignments, complications from spasticity or contracture, and complications from arthritis.
There are many ways to diagnose medical problems including X-rays, clinical examinations, CT scans, and MRI studies, but many take you off your feet. A gait analysis offers a unique perspective because it is done while you stand and walk. Since most foot, ankle, leg, and back pain begin or worsen while standing, a gait analysis offers a distinct advantage in diagnosing these problems.
During our analysis, you will be asked to walk at a comfortable speed while various computerized measurements are made. Several types of measurements may be used depending on the nature of the problem. These measurements will be combined with the doctor’s tests to determine the problem and the recommended treatment. One or more of the following analysis methods may be used.
Foot Step Analysis: A series of pressure sensitive switches, embedded in a mat on the floor, are activated as one walks over them. Just like foot prints in the sand, a computer captures the impressions of the feet. By analyzing these foot prints, a computer program calculates the walking pattern, including walking speed, stride length, and step time.
Force and Pressure Measurements: Our walkway is approximately XX feet long. As a patient walks on the track, they cross over several plates which record the amount of force and pressure exerted. This information is then sent to computers which show two and three-dimensional pictures of how the patient walks.
3-D Motion Analysis: Infrared light is reflected by special markers placed on the skin of the pelvis and lower extremities. A computerized camera system captures the position of these markers in three-dimensional space. By relating the movement of the markers to the movement of the person, joint angles and moments can be measured as the person walks.
Muscle Function Measurements: Small electrodes (sensors) are placed over certain muscles on the skin to measure how those muscles are working when one walks. When the muscles are active they produce an electrical signal. This evaluation technique of the signal the muscle produces is called electromyography (EMG). The electrodes on the skin measure the activity level of the muscle and help determine if there is a problem with the muscles or nerves.
Slow Motion Video: As a person walks, they are videotaped by slow-motion cameras. Reviewing slow motion and freeze frame video, allows for a detailed analysis of walking.