What is a Cerebral Palsy Gait?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Sometimes, people who have cerebral palsy have symptoms that affect how they walk. The condition may affect their muscles and joints as well as their bones, causing their knees to be stiff or making it hard for them to move forward or walk quickly. In some cases, muscle contractions may cause a person with cerebral palsy to crouch when walking instead of walking completely upright. In other cases, a person with this condition may have feet that are turned inward or walk on his toes. All of these factors can cause a person's walk to appear abnormal, and the altered way of walking is referred to as a cerebral palsy gait.

Cerebral palsy is often caused by damage to the brain.
Cerebral palsy is often caused by damage to the brain.

Cerebral palsy, usually caused by damage to the brain, is a group of conditions that affect movement and balance. The damage affects the areas of the brain that are responsible for muscle tone, which is critical in keeping various parts of the body balanced, in certain positions, or moving as expected. Cerebral palsy is often diagnosed in young children, as the brain damage that causes it usually happens before birth, during childbirth, or during the first few years of life. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. There are, however, treatments that may make living with the condition and moving around easier.

The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.
The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.

Since the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy affects muscle tone, it can cause cerebral palsy gait. The manner in which a patient's gait is affected typically depends on the severity of the condition, and some cases are more severe than others. For example, a person with cerebral palsy gait may have muscle spasticity that affects his walk; spasticity is the continuous contraction of a muscle or muscle group. In cerebral palsy, this often causes stiff knees, which makes walking difficult. Another example of a cerebral palsy gait problem is toe walking, which may also develop as a result of muscle spasticity.

While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are treatments for cerebral palsy gait. The treatment that is used may depend on the particulars of the condition and its severity, but braces, exercises, and therapies can be used in many cases. In other cases, surgery may be considered the best option for treating a person with cerebral palsy gait. For example, a surgeon may perform an operation to rotate the bone in a patient's leg and fix issues that impair his ability to walk forward.

Some children with cerebral palsy are confined to a wheelchair due to a severe gait.
Some children with cerebral palsy are confined to a wheelchair due to a severe gait.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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