Gait refers to the study of one’s body in motion – what is the person’s rate of movement and rhythm while they walk or run? Scientists and researchers have been researching gait since Aristotle wrote De Motu Animalium (On the Gait of Animals), but this study gained momentum with the invention of photography and cinematography, and more recently with the arrival of low-cost video cameras and computer programs that allow gait analysis to be performed effectively and inexpensively.
Modern gait analysis involves placing one or more video cameras around a walking/running track or treadmill, and connecting them to a computer. Patients have markers placed on critical joints and other parts of the body, and then walk or run while their gait is recorded and analyzed using a computer program, which breaks down the walking or running movements into 1/60th of a second increments. Then it can be determined whether these movements are efficient or inefficient, and whether they might reveal underlying problems that can be corrected to improve one’s performance as an athlete or just one’s ability to walk or run comfortably and without pain.
Many chiropractors provide gait analysis to their patients for many different reasons. Analysis of a patient’s gait can help to identify structural problems with their spine, pelvis, hips, knees and ankles; some patients may simply be bothered by pain when walking or running; and others may be seeking ways to improve their athletic performance. The chiropractor may use video cameras and gait analysis software as a diagnostic tool to identify misalignments or abnormalities that are causing the pain or reduced performance and correct them through a series of chiropractic adjustments. Gait analysis can also be useful in prescribing gait modification strategies that involve exercise, massage, dietary changes and even whether the patient’s footwear is a correct choice or may be causing problems.
These strategies can have immediate and beneficial results. Many patients have reported that not only has the pain disappeared when running, their performance times have gotten better and their heart rates have lowered, indicating that they are running more efficiently. Gait analysis can also help the chiropractor to detect and correct conditions such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis. Less frequently, gait analysis can reveal more serious problems such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
When you schedule a gait analysis session with your chiropractor, he may ask you to bring in your walking or running shoes, because wear patterns on the soles may also indicate gait dysfunctions or problems. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort when walking or running, or simply wish to improve your performance as an athlete, seeing a chiropractor for gait analysis may be a wise choice.