What is a spastic gait?

A spastic gait is an abnormality in the way a person walks. When a person has a spastic gait, his legs are typically weak and abnormally stiff. While walking, he keeps his legs closer together than normal, drags his feet or toes, and lacks typical flexibility in his ankles and knees. People with cerebral palsy often exhibit this type of walking. However, other conditions, including brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, can also contribute to this type of walking; it can even develop after a person has a stroke.

When a person has a spastic gait, their legs, toes, and feet are stiffer than normal. You usually don't flex your muscles or bend your legs while walking. Instead, long-term muscle contractions usually affect one side of your body, causing you to drag a foot or toes when you walk.

There are several conditions that can be associated with a spastic gait. Some people, for example, have this gait abnormality as one of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, although it doesn't affect everyone with the condition. An individual can also develop it after having a stroke or due to a brain abscess. In some cases, spastic gait is even associated with brain tumors or multiple sclerosis.

There are treatments for spastic gait, although they may not cure a person with this gait abnormality. Instead, many of them help encourage a more typical walking pattern. For example, exercises are often used to treat a person with a jerky gait. A physical therapist usually provides these exercises and instructs patients on how to perform them at home.

Many doctors recommend that people with this walking abnormality use two types of exercises: passive and active. When another person assists the movements of a person with a jerky gait, this is known as passive exercise. If the person performs the movements on her own, they are called active exercises.

Braces can also be used to keep a person's legs and feet properly positioned while standing and walking. Shoe splints can be used for the same purposes. If a person has balance problems when walking or standing, a walker may also be helpful in treating this gait abnormality.

Medications can also sometimes be used to treat this gait problem. For example, medications can be used to reduce muscle contraction, but the effects of many medications are still being studied. Surgery can also be used in severe cases.

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