What Is Gait Analysis in Children?

We humans don’t really think about making simple movements, like walking. It’s just something we do, right?

Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. The brain, muscles, and nerves have to come together just right all the time.

If a child has trouble moving in common ways like walking, a doctor might want to perform a gait analysis, sometimes called a motion analysis test.

It will help the doctor find the problem and decide the best way to treat it.

Why Would I Have It Done?

Sometimes a child’s movement problem might be a lack of coordination. It could also be a sign of cerebral palsy, a disorder, or an injury.

Some gait issues are obvious and easy to spot, like stiffness or weakness in a muscle or joint. Other are more subtle. They can be complex and involve several joints -- like a hip, knee, or ankle.

What Happens During the Test?

The test can take up to 3 hours. The doctor’s team will give the child a physical examination. They will use electric sensors, computers, and video monitoring to figure out strength, flexibility, and muscle tone.

Here’s how it works:

  • Reflective markers are taped onto your child’s body. They look like little round balls on a small round base, and they peel off like a Band-Aid.
  • Cameras record the balls’ movements to see how the joints are working.
  • The balls also show how forces act on joints to find what’s not right.
  • Your child will be videotaped while walking and possibly making other movements.
  • Additional sensors may be attached -- to measure how the child’s muscles get used, and how he puts pressure on different parts of his feet while moving.
  • These tests look at posture and how much energy your child uses to move. People with disorders use more energy.

You and your child might be able to see a computer simulation of his movements on a monitor.

Computers analyze the information. The medical team uses that to make their recommendations.

Similar tests can be performed on adults too.

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How Does Gait Analysis Help?

Gait analysis helps doctors see any problems with how your child moves and how to compensate for them.

In kids, they might be due to:

  • Weak muscles
  • Abnormal joint position
  • Poor range of motion

What doctors can learn:

  • If the child has a neuromuscular diseases and how it is progressing
  • Whether to plan surgery
  • How well insoles and or other tools, including perhaps prostheses, might help.

The high-tech tools are no substitute for having a doctor see your child and talk with you both.

But they do help your doctor gather information about what’s wrong so she can make treatment plans to help your child enjoy more normal and healthy motion.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 23, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

The Mayo Clinic: “You Child’s Motion Analysis Test.”

Stanford Children’s Health: “Gait Analysis.”

Current Orthopaedic Practice: “Applications of gait analysis in pediatric orthopaedics.”

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