How to Use Manual Therapy to Restore Essential Gait Mechanics

Gait Analysis: What Is It?

The term “gait” refers to the pattern of movement made by your body when it walks or runs. The word “analysis” comes from the Greek words meaning “to see.” Gait is a complex system of movements that are coordinated with each other and with gravity. The human body is designed to move in such a way that its joints do not overstretch or understress their muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, organs and other tissues.

In addition to the coordination of these movements with each other and gravity, there are two additional factors involved in how our bodies walk: balance and proprioception (the sense of where our limbs are). Balance involves the ability to maintain equilibrium while moving through space. Proprioception is the sense of where our limbs are relative to one another. When we walk, our brains send signals to our legs and feet to coordinate the correct motions so that we don’t fall down.

How Do I Know If My Body Moves Correctly?

There are several ways in which you can tell if your body moves correctly:

Balance – You feel stable while walking. Each foot hits the ground at a slightly different time. Your knees are not locking, and your joints are not making a grinding noise. You don’t feel pain in your feet, ankles, knees, hips or lower back. Your abs (the ones that make your stomach look like a six-pack) feel strong and engaged when you move.

Your head is stable (meaning it does not bob up and down) and your arms swing back and forth with each step.

Proprioception – You know where your limbs are. When you close your eyes, you can tell whether your right foot or left foot is forward. You can also tell how far apart they are. If you lift your arms up, you know the location of your fingers relative to one another without looking at them. This ability is called “kinesthetic sense.” If you close your eyes and try to touch your nose, you are able to do so without much (if any) visual guidance.

If you try to stand on one foot, you are able to do so without falling over.

Many of us who have bodies that move correctly never think about the fact that we are “supposed” to be able to do these things. Children do these things without even thinking about it. When we are young, our brains and bodies work in harmony, which is one reason why children are less prone to back and joint problems. It is not until later in life that the effects of wear and tear begin to make themselves known.

There are several reasons why our ability to move correctly deteriorate with age and cause back pain, leg pain, hip pain and knee pain:

As we get older, our muscles become weaker and less resilient.

Sources & references used in this article:

… of the primary outcomes for gait mechanics in men of the ACL-SPORTS trial: secondary prevention with and without perturbation training does not restore gait … by JJ Capin, R Zarzycki, A Arundale, K Cummer… – … and Related Research®, 2017 – Springer

A review of lower extremity assistive robotic exoskeletons in rehabilitation therapy by G Chen, CK Chan, Z Guo, H Yu – Critical Reviews™ in …, 2013 – dl.begellhouse.com

Restoration of gait during two to three weeks of therapy with multichannel electrical stimulation by U Bogataj, N Gros, M Maležič, B Kelih, M Kljajić… – Physical …, 1989 – academic.oup.com

The efficacy of manual joint mobilisation/manipulation in treatment of lateral ankle sprains: a systematic review by JK Loudon, MP Reiman, J Sylvain – British journal of sports medicine, 2014 – bjsm.bmj.com

Functional stability re-training: principles and strategies for managing mechanical dysfunction by MJ Comerford, SL Mottram – Manual therapy, 2001 – academia.edu

Fundamental principles of rehabilitation and musculoskeletal tissue healing by K Kirkby Shaw, L Alvarez, SA Foster… – Veterinary …, 2020 – Wiley Online Library