Have you ever recognized someone from a distance based on the way they walk? Humans are unique in many ways, and gait patterns are no exception. The way one walks can be influenced by a multitude of factors including pain, injury, surgery, muscle weakness, cognition, and balance – the list could go on. Analyzing and interpreting gait patterns is a crucial part of understanding what type of exercise and recovery program best suits a patient’s needs – which is why patients should seek guidance from professionals who will perform a comprehensive gait analysis.
Importance of Objective Data
While most physical therapists will perform an observational gait analysis in the clinic, this does not provide true objective information. Observational gait analysis is exactly how it sounds, meaning that the clinician will use their training and skilled eye to identify any major deviations or abnormalities they observe and the overall quality of a patient’s gait. Objective information differs in the sense that it provides quantifiable data without bias that can be analyzed and tracked. There are certain tests that can be performed to provide more objective measures, but the accuracy depends on the nature of the environment and consistency of the setup, leaving some room for error and inconsistencies.
Using a valid gait analysis tool is favorable and provides more accurate data to identify impairments and track progress over time. Unfortunately, this is not common practice as access to a gait analysis lab is usually limited and rather expensive. So, clinicians rely on what is available to them. When physical therapists utilize gait analysis technology, they are truly working in an evidence-based framework. This means that they are making clinical decisions for patients that are based on science and are then able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the interventions – yielding the best possible results for the patient. For more information on how gait can be analyzed, check out our article How Do I Analyze My Gait?.
Heightened Insight into Impairments
Aside from gathering more objective data for interpretation, performing a proper gait analysis provides heightened insight into impairments or problems that may otherwise have gone unnoticed by the naked eye. Even the most experienced clinicians are not able to gather certain measurements without the use of technology. Two very important parameters when analyzing the way someone walks are gait speed and gait variability.
Gait speed is much easier to measure in the clinic without a specific device, but the accuracy remains dependent upon many factors. Gait speed is now being recognized as the fifth vital sign - that’s how important of a parameter it is! Gait variability is particularly difficult to quantify without specific measurement tools as it assesses stride to strife differences within a walk. When there is a significant decrease in gait speed or increase in gait variability, this indicates there is likely an underlying impairment that needs to be addressed for optimal functional mobility, safety, and overall wellness. Performing an objective gait analysis can shine a light on these problems early on or when they are not visible during observational gait analysis.
Gait is a Window into Health and Wellness
Why is it important to be so thorough when it comes to gait? Well, there are actually many surprising things your walk can say about you! Notably, a healthy gait is a foundation for optimal mobility and independence. Having the ability to move with confidence, comfort, and safety is essential for improved quality of life and general well-being. When people are limited by the way they walk, this can prevent them from spending time with loved ones and participating in important community activities – causing harm to their emotional and mental health. Being mobile is particularly crucial to maintaining physical activity levels and promoting strong muscles, heart health, and the proper function of other body systems. Additionally, when healing from an injury or surgery, the way a patient walks can identify areas that need more attention while also tracking progress and gauging the road to recovery.
OneStep Makes Accurate Gait Analysis Accessible
Looking for a free gait analysis you can do right from your phone? OneStep leverages the sensors in smartphones to accurately track and analyze step rate, consistency, gait speed, hip range of motion during walking, and over 40 other motion parameters. Patients and providers receive real-time feedback that is used to motivate patients and provide longitudinal data that clinicians can use to objectively track and demonstrate patient progress over time. More so, users can opt to record background walks which allows for gait analysis anytime, anywhere – even in the patient’s natural environment. The best part? No expensive equipment or wearables are required. All you have to do is download the OneStep app today and take a 30-second walk to reveal accurate and comprehensive gait analysis data.