What is gait and how can I analyze mine?
Have you ever walked down the street carrying groceries or on a busy city sidewalk at midday? Maybe you’ve been in a crowded parking lot while pushing a stroller or leaning on a cane doing fine, but for just an instant you feel a little wobbly. There are endless factors that can impact the way you walk. Feeling off-balance or experiencing pain when you walk isn’t something you should just brush off. It’s important to have a healthy gait for a healthy life full of movement!
Gait is the word we use to describe your “walk pattern.” Simply put, it’s the way you take steps and walk from place to place. There are several parameters that can be analyzed during what is called a gait cycle. These parameters include gait speed, step length, stride length, step rate, symmetry, and consistency just to name a few. When someone has surgery, sustains an injury, or has a medical condition it can impact some of these specific parameters and cause an atypical gait pattern. How one walks is not something most people think about most of the time, but when something is off it can be a source of great stress, limitation, and discomfort.
Physical therapists can tell a lot about you from your gait. Muscle weakness, range of motion limitations, balance deficits, and posture can all be apparent by the way you walk. Importantly, gait can also be an indicator of increased fall risk and certain neurological conditions – you can see how gait is actually very important! Unfortunately, it is something that is often undervalued and not assessed thoroughly enough.
So, how can you tell if your gait is an A+ or barely passing? Well, wobbly feelings aside, you need to have your gait analyzed by a professional.
There are 3 Types of Gait Analysis
Type 1: Observational Gait Analysis
This type of analysis is done by a healthcare practitioner and is exactly what it sounds like, an observation. When you walk, you move through two phases; a “swing phase” (when you lift and move your foot forward) and a “stance phase” (when your foot is on the ground). A qualified professional can diagnose a gait issue by observing you as you move between these two phases and pick up on all kinds of details invisible to the untrained eye that might indicate a particular problem. This type of gait analysis is important but can lack the accuracy needed to identify all gait impairments. Additionally, clinicians are still human and there is more room for inconsistencies and bias with observational gait analysis.
Type 2: Gait Analysis in a Laboratory
For those who want a more scientific gait analysis, one option is to visit a gait lab. Gait labs, and some clinics, will have various types of technology that can provide in-depth insight into your gait mechanics with quantitative data and measurements. To gather this information, you’ll typically walk up and down a runway of sensors or you will have to wear sensors on your actual body. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, these clinics are not readily accessible, not typically covered by insurance, and can be really expensive. Likewise, most of your outpatient physical therapy clinics do not utilize this type of technology so it is unlikely you will have access to it if you opt for traditional physical therapy.
Type 3: OneStep Digital Gait Lab Analysis
OneStep is an app for your smartphone that offers the same type of analysis you’d receive from a gait lab – all from the convenience of your own home without any additional equipment or wearables. It’s actually really simple.
The science behind OneStep leverages the sensors in smartphones to create a motion analysis lab in your pocket. You see, all smartphones (including yours) contain accelerometers and gyro sensors that can analyze the phone’s movement in space. Using these sensors, our scientists at OneStep created a system that allows for tracking specific movements and translating this data into gait parameters via sophisticated algorithms. With an error rate of +/-3%, OneStep’s gait analysis is highly accurate and allows your physical therapists to understand your gait with heightened insight to provide you with highly customized treatment plans. Using the app brings immediate, easy-to-understand, around-the-clock feedback directly to you and your physical therapist.