Abnormal Gait in Children: What Are the Causes and Treatment Options?

March 30, 2022
Abnormal Gait in Children: What Are the Causes and Treatment Options?

There are many reasons why children may demonstrate unusual walking patterns and other gait abnormalities. Though some children grow out of an abnormal gait, in some cases, additional treatments may be necessary. Effective treatment options can help children gain full mobility and significantly improve any gait abnormality.

Typically, children begin walking around one year old. Parents may notice unusual developments at this time. By four years old, most children have fully developed their gait, and any abnormalities can be identified.

There are a variety of conditions that doctors classify as gait abnormalities. However, some of the most common abnormalities are attributed to intoeing and outtoeing. This is when feet turn inward or outward while walking, and can range in severity.

What Are the Most Common Pediatric Gait Abnormalities?

Gait abnormalities may be associated with tibial torsion, which will twist the feet inward to outward. In some cases, this is treatable when children are between eighteen to thirty months old. Doctors will give your child a brace to wear overnight that corrects tibial torsion. Surgery is typically a last resort for tibial torsion issues.

Femoral version refers to a condition where a child's upper legs twist in a similar way. This typically becomes apparent between the ages of two and four, and children can grow out of it. Children can receive surgery for femoral version, but doctors recommend waiting until after age nine.

Bowlegs, knock knees, and flat feet are more common and less severe than tibial torsion or femoral version. Other than flat feet, these conditions are rarely severe enough to need treatment or surgery.

Limping may be associated with injuries and, in many cases, do no not indicate a long-term gait abnormality. If limping is persistent, a licensed doctor should consult your child to identify the cause. In some rare cases, a limp can identify other health issues, including cancer.

If you notice your child is walking on their toes, it can be a sign of a gait abnormality. Though, more commonly, it's a child developing their balance and learning to walk. Another cause of toe walking may be tight muscles. This is a temporary problem, not a long-term gait abnormality.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Gait Abnormalities?

Only a licensed professional should diagnose these issues. A physician can correctly identify a gait abnormality and its root causes. Foot and ankle doctors may observe the child walking or running.

If a gait abnormality is present, a child may require X-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan. These can help identify internal issues that are causing a gait abnormality. Physicians may also ask if the child has been in pain or if there may be a genetic link.

What Treatment Options are Available?

Gait abnormalities vary in severity, and a licensed professional can help you explore treatment options. In the event that a child does have an abnormal gait, there are several treatments to consider. Of course, these treatments are tailored to each child's unique needs and conditions.

Generally, abnormal gaits are observed over several years of development. Also, some doctors recommend waiting for treatment on less severe abnormalities to see if the child grows out of it. A comprehensive assessment and treatment plan varies from child to child, and you should explore non-surgical treatment options initially.

Our team of compassionate, dedicated, and experienced professionals is here to help evaluate and identify any potential gait abnormalities. Diablo Foot and Ankle has the expertise to diagnose your child and develop an individual treatment plan for them. Find out today how we diagnose and treat gait abnormalities, no matter the severity of the condition.

Common Podiatry Questions

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

What does a Podiatrist treat?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the feet. They can treat conditions such as ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

What’s the difference between a Podiatrist and Orthopedist?

A Podiatrist and Orthopedist are very similar to each other in many ways. They use most of the same tools and treat a lot of the same conditions. The main difference between the two is their medical training. Podiatrists are trained exclusively on the foot and ankle, whereas the Orthopedic is trained on the whole body with an additional year of training on the foot and ankle.

Where are your Podiatry clinics located?

At Diablo Foot & Ankle, we treat our foot and ankle patients in two main clinic locations in Walnut Creek and in Antioch California. Dr. Eman Elmi and Dr. Shayan Esspoor are Board Certified Podiatrists who specialize in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

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