What Is Gait? - Definition, Types, Analysis & Abnormalities

What Is Gait? - Definition, Types, Analysis & Abnormalities
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  • 0:03 What Is Gait?
  • 1:21 Types, Abnormalities,…
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shara Steiner
By the end of this lesson, students will be better able to define what gait is and how gait is analyzed by medical professionals. They'll also be able to describe four different types of abnormal gait and link gait abnormalities to physiologic dysfunction.

What Is Gait?

Gait is, quite simply, the pattern of how a person walks. Medical professionals can tell a lot about a person's health from their gait, including if they have neurologic, muscular, or skeletal problems.

Gait has two phases: swing phase and stance phase. Swing phase occurs when the foot is not in contact with the ground, beginning when the foot leaves the ground and ending with the heel strike of the same foot. The stance phase is comprised of all the activity that occurs when the foot is in contact with the ground, beginning with heel strike and ending with toe off of the same foot. The stance phase accounts for 60% of the gait cycle, leaving 40% of the gait cycle to the swing phase.

The way a person moves his or her body through the two phases usually provides enough information for a medical professional to diagnose a gait abnormality. This is known as observational gait analysis. Many parameters are considered during observational gait analysis, including step length, stride length, speed, trunk rotation, and arm swing. If a person's gait abnormality is more complex, a medical professional can further analyze gait using various photographic and video data, 3D imaging, measurements from sensors placed on the body, and other modalities that go beyond observational gait analysis.

Types, Abnormalities, and Analysis

Let's discuss four common gait abnormalities that can be diagnosed through observational gait analysis:

First is antalgic, a type of gait that a person develops as a way to avoid pain while walking (antalgic = 'anti-' + 'alge' meaning 'against pain'). You might see an example of an antalgic gait as a football player limps off the field after being tackled.

Hemiplegic gait is most commonly seen after a person has a stroke. 'Hemi' means half, and 'plegia' means paralysis, so a person with a hemiplegic gait has complete or partial paralysis on one side of the body. On the affected side, the person's arm will likely be flexed and held close to the body, while the weak leg will be held in extension and circumduction, or be dragged around in a semicircle during the swing phase.

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