Gait refers to the manner in which you ambulate or walk. A safe gait is necessary for independent living and the prevention of falls and injuries. Strength, endurance, motion, balance, and coordination are all components of an effective gait. These factors can be impaired or limited as the result of injury; neurological disorders, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury; orthopedic conditions, such as broken bones or joint problems; medical conditions, including arthritis; and leg amputation. In rehabilitation, “gait training” refers to therapies to help you walk after you have experienced a circumstance that affects your ambulation.
Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist for gait training. Your physical therapist will work with your doctor to determine treatments that are appropriate for you and that are designed to meet your goals. Physical therapy can help restore your strength, endurance, motion, balance, and coordination. Your loved ones and caregivers are welcome at your therapy sessions so that they can be trained to assist you, if necessary.
At your initial evaluation, your physical therapist will examine your arms and legs. Measurements will be taken to see how far you can move your joints and how strong your muscles are. Your therapist will assess your balance and posture while you are sitting and standing. He or she will look for signs of sores, deformities, or swelling.
You should tell your physical therapist about your symptoms, concerns, and specific goals. Your therapist will ask you about your home and work environment to find out about the type of surfaces you need to walk on and how many steps you have to go up or down. Your therapist will create a treatment plan that incorporates your goals for functional improvement and independence.
Components of gait training vary and depend on the type of condition you have, the extent of your condition, and your goals. It is common for therapy to include strengthening and stretching exercises. Your physical therapist may fabricate an orthosis or brace to provide support to your ankle while you walk. Your physical therapist can help you learn to walk with leg braces or a prosthetic device. Additionally, your physical therapist can issue walking aids such as canes or walkers to help with balance.
It is helpful to have a physical therapist and an occupational therapist perform a home evaluation. They will assess your ability to maneuver in your home and make recommendations for safe ambulation, such as removing cords or throw rugs from the floor. An occupational therapist can recommend durable medical equipment, such as a bedside commode, to help you maintain your independence as your function improves. As your abilities improve, your physical therapist will upgrade your program to match your new skills and goals.