As we mentioned in our previous post, gait—the manner in which you walk or run—can have a significant impact on a person’s mobility, limb health, and recovery time. It’s no wonder, then, that physical therapists often rely on gait analysis to help prevent injury, improve endurance and conditioning, and accelerate recovery.
There was a time when improvements in a person’s gait were achieved through clinician observation alone. Through Observational Gait Analysis, clinicians and physical therapists observe walk and run movements, identify abnormalities or inefficiencies, and then develop a treatment plan based on these observations. It is a relatively effective method, however, it can be subjective and inefficient.
Although these methods are still used today, they have evolved thanks to key technological breakthroughs. This evolution is perhaps no better exemplified than by the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ with StrideSmart Technology.
StrideSmart is an advanced gait analysis system that employs video motion software in tandem with the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. It allows PTs to capture the patient’s movement while walking or running, including close-up views of specific motions. Therapists can also use slow motion for closer analysis. This allows therapists and patients to identify asymmetries and gait deficiencies, then see the optimal body weight support needed for pain-free, normal gait or running mechanics.
PTs can also coach patients on which movements to avoid in order to prevent future injury. In some applications, for example, the PT will place colored tape on key points of the treadmill. Then, patients can use the video monitor to watch as they walk or run, using the tape as a guide to correct their gait in real-time.
Abnormalities and asymmetries tend to reverberate throughout the limbs, causing a kind of ripple effect. The foot and ankle alone contain 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. An imbalance, weakness, or injury in even one of these can have effects on other bones, joints, and muscles throughout the leg. A ruptured Achilles tendon, for example, or a torn meniscus, could be the result of a weakness caused by a person compensating for an unseen gait imbalance. This makes a focus on improving gait crucial to preventing injuries and recovering from them faster when they do occur.