Gait Training

Following injury or illness, patients often have trouble standing and walking. A gait training program designed by a physical therapist can help such patients regain the ability to move around safely, either on their own or with the use of an assistive device such as a cane or walker. Such programs are commonly prescribed to patients who have suffered stroke, broken legs or pelvis, amputation, knee replacements, or injuries resulting from accidents. Furthermore, children with brain injuries, neurological disorders, or certain musculoskeletal conditions may benefit from gait training. Successful gait training programs help strengthen joints and muscles, improve posture and balance, develop muscle memory, increase endurance, and retrain the legs for walking. In some cases, gait training can be physically taxing, which means participants get the added benefit of cardiovascular exercise to strengthen the heart and lungs. The physical activity and conditioning associated with gait training also may help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. In some cases, gait training exercises may require the use of machines that assist the patient as he or she moves. Other exercises only require human assistance to ensure stability. Exercises involving treadmills often require the use of a harness. As with other physical therapy programs, the type and intensity of gait training will vary depending on a patient’s specific needs, abilities, and condition.