Gait Abnormalities refer to atypical patterns of walking in children. These can be caused by many different factors. In children, there is a wide range of what is considered to be a “normal” walking pattern as their bodies grow and develop. Certain ways of walking can make it hard for a child to do the things they want to do and may cause other issues as they grow. Physiotherapy can help correct many of these undesirable walking abnormalities.
Because walking is something that we do all day every day, changing gait patterns and breaking habits can take some time and repetition. If you have any questions or concerns about the way your child walks, a paediatric physiotherapist can help!
Common Gait Abnormalities in children:
- Late or delayed walking – Most children will first begin taking independent steps around 12 to 18 months of age. There are many factors that may explain a delay in walking such as muscular imbalances, low muscle tone (hypotonia), personality, poor motor confidence, or sensory processing issues. Early intervention is the best way to treat children that are late to walk.
- Toe Walking (Paediatric Equinus Gait) occurs when a child walks on the balls of their feet and don’t get appropriate heel strike or land on a flat foot. Toe walking can be the result of one issue or overlapping factors such as muscle tightness, sensory processing issues, hypertonia.
- In-toeing gait pattern refers to a child’s feet turning in with walking. This can have multiple causes involving the foot, the knee or the hip, and may be muscular or neurological in nature.
- Out-Toeing occurs when your child’s feet point outwards with walking. It can be caused by an outward rotation at the hip, thigh, lower leg or foot. or may be a way for your child, especially new walkers or kids with hypotonia to increase their base of support and provide better balance.
- Knock Knees (Genu Valgum) occurs when a child’s knees touch and their ankles remain apart when walking. As kids grow and develop, their knees may naturally begin to knock together around the age of 2 to 3 years of age. However, if the muscular imbalances remain, it becomes a habit and your child may continue to use this immature pattern of walking.
- Bowlegged (Genu Varum) refers to a child walking with both knees curved outward in a varus position as if sitting on a horse. You may notice your child has trouble bending their knees and they may “waddle” when they walk. It can also be a normal part of gait development when kids are younger, but muscular imbalances may develop prolonging the abnormality.
- Flat feet (Pes Planus) is a condition in which the arch of the foot collapses or fails to develop appropriately. Normally, the arch of the foot develops between the ages of 3 to 6 years of age. In some children, the arch may fail to develop due to tightness in the calf muscles, hypermobility in the ligaments of the foot and ankle, poor stability of the knees and hips, or overall low muscle tone (hypotonia).
Physiotherapy Treatment for Gait Abnormalities at Butterfly:
Our Physiotherapist will perform a comprehensive assessment of your child’s gait. This will involve observing body alignment and posture, range of motion, strength, sensory development and your child’s ability to complete gross motor skills.
Physiotherapists can help children to develop good movement patterns and help change walking habits by identifying the underlying cause and then appropriately treating muscle imbalances with active stretches and strengthening, giving education on proper footwear, and introducing sensory strategies. Therapists may also use kinesiotape, electrical stimulation, treadmill training, and potential referrals for orthotics to augment their hands-on therapy sessions.
We understand that problem with how your child walks can be concerning for you as a parent, and it’s often hard to know when to seek help. Butterfly Physiotherapists are trained in gait analysis specific to children. It takes about 6 years for a child to adopt an adult like gait pattern, so being able to recognize an appropriate gait pattern based on where your child is functioning is an important first step in therapy. From there we try to make therapy fun and engaging!
To book an assessment or for more information on Gait Abnormalities please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (905) 206-0300.