President's Prescription: Gait Laboratory - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

President's Prescription: Gait Laboratory

Recent studies suggest health care providers may be able to identify early signs of Alzheimer's disease and potential sites of ulcer development in the feet of diabetic patients just by watching a person walk.

Experts at the Gait Laboratory in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's Center for Rehabilitation Research have conducted gait analyses for patients suffering from conditions including cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, ACL injury, knee osteoarthritis and shin splints.

Gait disorders, or difficulty walking, are a common and significant cause of reduced quality of life and independence, according to the Movement Disorder Society. Falls are one of the most important consequences of gait disorders.

Gait analysis is not used to diagnose or treat conditions. Instead, it is used as a tool for clinicians to diagnose, monitor and assist in the treatment of a gait impairment to restore a patient's function.

A typical gait analysis takes about two hours and is usually non-invasive and painless. Patients walk for several feet while measurements of joint movement; forces and muscle activations and timing are recorded. Some gait analyses, depending on the patient, might also involve measurements of pressures under his or her feet or speed, cadence and step length.

Uses of gait analyses include:

  • Documenting a patient's condition at a specific time. For example, a child with cerebral palsy might have abnormal gait such as toe-walking or a crouch because of impaired muscle function.
  • Testing a clinical hypothesis, like which brace or orthotic produces the most normal gait pattern or best controls an abnormal joint motion.
  • Guiding treatment like before a tendon transfer surgery in a child with cerebral palsy.

Gait labs are also used for monitoring progress before and after a treatment. Gait disorders are treated with active intervention to decrease fall risk as well as medical, surgical and physical interventions. For the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell and this is the President's Prescription.

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