February 24, 2014

The first steps of the kid

Walk Deviations in Children

Watching your child learn to walk is one of the greatest joys in life. But what if your child isn’t able to walk like the other kids his age?

The way people walk is referred to as their gait. If their walking is not like the walking of others, it’s a deviation from the norm, or a gait deviation.

For some children, gait deviations may delay their development. That’s why it’s important for parents to know what to look for and when to seek help.

To help parents understand and identify gait deviations, our therapy team in Laredo, Texas, has put together the following lists.

Which gait deviations are often seen in young children?  

  • In-toeing : Walking with feet pointing inward or towards each other
  • Out-toeing : Walking with feet pointing outward or away from each other
  • Tip-toeing : Walking on the tips of the toes resulting in heels not touching the ground

What conditions cause gait deviations?

  • Tibial torsion – Twisting or rotation either inward or outward of the tibia (lower leg bone) resulting in the foot pointing in the direction of the rotation.
  • Femoral torsion – Twisting or rotation either inward or outward of the femur (upper leg bone) resulting in the foot pointing in the direction of the rotation.
  • Bow legs – Outward angle created by the femur and tibia resulting in a separation of the knees and rolling outward of the foot.
  • Knock knees – Inward angle created by the femur and tibia resulting in the knees touching and an inability to touch the feet together at the same time.
  • Flat feet – Arches of the feet fail to form resulting in total contact of the bottom of the foot with the floor and outward rolling of the heel.
  • Metatarsus adductus – Inward bending of the bones of the front half of the foot – also known as pigeon toe.
  • Muscle tightness /contracture – Increase in tension resulting in the shortening of a muscle’s length.
  • Muscle weakness/strength imbalance – Lack of strength required for normal walking or the overpowering of stronger muscles over weaker muscles.
  • Leg length discrepancy – One leg grows longer than the other.

What options are available to help correct my child’s gait deviation?

  • Physical therapy can provide stretching and exercises that will help correct deviations.
  • Braces can direct the alignment of the legs and feet.
  • Casting can help lengthen or align muscles and bones when performed in a series under careful supervision.
  • Surgery can correct either bone alignment/angulation or lengthen muscles and tendons.
  • Let it work itself out.

If you have concerns about your child’s walk, please talk to his health care provider to determine your best options. Remember that some deviations are common, so there’s a chance that your child may outgrow them without any intervention.