Gait Disorders, Imbalance and Falls: Types, Causes & Treatment

Gait Disorders, Imbalance and Falls: Types, Causes & Treatment

Balance, gait, and the act of walking all involve complex motions. They depend on the body's various systems, including the following, working properly:


Balance, gait, and the act of walking all involve complex motions. They depend on the body's various systems, including the following, working properly:

  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Muscled brain, sensory neurons

If any of these issues are not resolved, it may cause difficulty walking, accidents, or injuries. Depending on the reason, difficulties walking may be short-term or persistent.

What to watch for with balance and movement issues

The most typical signs of equilibrium and gait issues are:

  • Problems walking, balance issues
  • Unsteadiness

People may encounter

  • Dizziness
  • Dizziness, vertigo, and motion sickness
  • Dual perception
  • Depending on the underlying reason or condition, additional symptoms might appear.

What leads to issues with movement and balance?

Temporary gait or equilibrium issues could result from a variety of factors, including:

  • Injury
  • Trauma
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Muscle-nervous problems frequently lead to longer-term troubles.

Gait, balance, and coordination issues are frequently brought on by certain medical disorders, such as:

  • joint discomfort or ailments like multiple sclerosis or arthritis (MS)
  • Meniere's condition
  • Brain tumour and cerebral haemorrhage
  • Parkinson's illness
  • deformity of the spine (CM)
  • compression of the spinal nerve or infarction
  • Guillain-Barré disease
  • neuropathy in the limbs
  • myopathy
  • Brain damage (CP)
  • Muscle wasting disease
  • obesity
  • chronic alcohol abuse vitamin B-12 shortage stroke vertigo migraine deformities specific medicines, such as antihypertensive ones

Limited range of motion and exhaustion are additional factors. Walking can become challenging if there is muscle weakness in one or both knees. Numbness in the feet and legs can make it difficult to feel where your feet are going or whether they are on the ground.

Conditions of gait

There is often a large crossover between the causes of neurological and non-neurological gait disorders. The antalgic gait, which is frequently observed in osteoarthritis, is a consequence of avoiding pain related to weight-bearing. Gait problems frequently exhibit asymmetry because of contractures and other orthopaedic deformities. The final prevalent non-neurological cause of gait disorders is impaired vision.

Gait disorders in neuroscience

It is incapacitating and needs to be addressed. The variety of gait disorders seen in clinical settings shows the extensive neural network required for the task. Every degree of walking is susceptible to neurologic disease. On the basis of abnormal physiology and biomechanics, gait conditions have been descriptively categorised. Numerous failing gaits share a basic similarity that makes this method problematic. This similarity in patterns of adaptation to compromised balance stability and decreasing performance is reflected. The clinically noted gait disorder needs to be seen as the result of a neurologic deficit and a functional adaptation.

Cautious gait

The patient is referred to as having a cautious gait if they walk with a short step, widened base, and lowered centre of mass, as if they were on a slick surface. Both prevalent and non-specific, this disorder. In essence, it is a response to a perceived danger to the postural position. A dread of falling might be present. Over one-third of elderly individuals with impaired gait are found to have this disorder. Walking is frequently made better by physical rehabilitation to the point where later testing may identify a more definite underlying condition.

Gait with stiff legs

The symptoms of spastic gait include stiffness in the legs, an unbalanced muscular tone, and a propensity to circumduct and scuff the feet. The condition is reflected in the corticospinal control being compromised and the excessive spinal reflex activity. The patient might stand on his or her heels. In extreme cases, the thighs may cross (scissor gait) as a result of increased adductor tone. Physical evaluation reveals upper motor neuron signs. The condition could have a cerebral or spinal cause.

Parkinsonism, freezing gait

The movement disorders Parkinsonism, freezing gait, and others

1% of people over 55 have Parkinson's disease, making it a widespread condition. The typical and distinguishing characteristics are the hunched posture and staggered gait. Patients occasionally show retropulsion, a propensity to turn en bloc, and a tendency to accelerate (festinate) with walking. The parkinsonian gait's step-to-step variation also increases the danger of falling. Step length, arm swing, turning speed, and gait start are all enhanced by the replacement of dopamine. There is mounting evidence that Parkinson's disease gait disorder is caused by defects in the cholinergic pathways of the pedunculopontine nucleus and cortex.

Even in the absence of cognitive impairment, cholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil and rivastigmine have been shown to substantially reduce gait variability, instability, and fall frequency in early studies. This effect may be attributed to an increase in attention.

Gait disorder, frontal

Frontal gait disorder, also called higher level gait disorder, affects many elderly people and has a number of reasons. A shuffling, freezing gait with imbalance and other upper cerebral dysfunction symptoms are described by the word. Wide base of support, short stride, shuffle along the floor, and trouble with starts and turns are typical characteristics. The "slipping clutch" condition, also known as gait ignition failure, is a common symptom among patients who have trouble kicking off their steps. Such individuals are also referred to as having lower-body parkinsonism.

Patients are typically able to keep their balance while stepping while not standing, and their strength is typically preserved. Though the term "gait apraxia" still appears in the literature, it is preferable to think of this condition as a higher-level motor control disorder rather than an apraxia.

Vascular disease, especially subcortical small-vessel disease in the deep frontal white matter and centrum ovale, is the most prevalent cause of frontal gait disorder. The majority of patients with subcortical vascular dementia exhibit abnormal gait patterns; decreased arm swing and a hunched posture are especially common. Dysarthria, pseudobulbar affect (emotional disinhibition), increased tone, and hyperreflexia in the lower extremities are other symptoms of the clinical syndrome.

Cervical gait ataxia

Gait and equilibrium are significantly affected by cerebellum disorders. Cerebellar gait ataxia is characterised by a broad base of support, lateral trunk instability, erratic foot placement, and decompensation of balance when trying to walk on a narrow base. A common early symptom is having trouble keeping your equilibrium when turning. In tandem or narrow-based stance, patients are unable to step heel to toe and exhibit truncal sway. Their propensity to trip and fall in daily living varies greatly.

Stroke, trauma, tumours, multiple-system atrophy, and different hereditary types of cerebellar degeneration are among the causes of cerebellar ataxia in older patients. Gait ataxia in older males has been linked to a brief expansion (fragile X premutation) at the location of the fragile X mutation. Cerebellar ataxia brought on by alcohol is both acute and persistent. MRI can be used to determine the degree and pattern of cerebellar atrophy in people who have ataxia brought on by cerebellar degeneration.

Gait disorder in function

In neurologic practice, functional disorders—previously known as "psychogenic" disorders—are frequent, and their presentation frequently includes gait. A functional gait disorder is characterised by internal inconsistencies of deficits that may be inconsistent with a neurological deficiency. For instance, odd posture gyrations that waste muscular energy (astasia-abasia) appear unstable on the surface but actually call for strong postural regulation. Falls are uncommon, and there are frequent differences between the results of the physical and the patient's functional state.

Considering that many organic neurological illnesses are also paroxysmal in nature, distraction may help with extreme slow motion, an unnecessarily cautious gait, and dramatic fluctuations over time. A functional neurological disorder can now be diagnosed even in the lack of prior stress or trauma because both are variably present.

Identifying Balance And Movement Issues

An evaluation of the physical and neurological systems can identify balance or gait issues. Your doctor will also inquire about the severity of your complaints.

The results of performance testing can then be used to evaluate each person's movement issues. Additional possible investigations to find the reasons could be:

  • Exams for hearing
  • Inner ear exams
  • Vision examinations that include ocular movement monitoring
  • Your brain and spinal cord can be scanned using an MRI or CT examination.

Your doctor will examine your nervous system to determine which area is causing your equilibrium and gait issues.

To check for muscular issues and peripheral neuropathy, a nerve conduction study and electromyogram can be used. Blood tests may also be prescribed by your doctor to check for potential reasons of balance issues.

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Treating issues with balance and movement

The reason determines the best course of action for gait and balance problems. Medication and physical training are possible treatments.

Your ability to move your muscles, make up for a loss of balance, and learn how to avoid falls may all require rehabilitation. You may discover how to position your head to regain equilibrium for vertigo-related balance problems.


Elderly people are more likely to fall than younger people; more than one-third of residents over 65 who live in the neighbourhood do so annually. Hospitals and nursing homes have even greater rates than this. In addition to having a higher risk of falling, elderly people are also more likely to develop severe complications from medical conditions like osteoporosis. Hip fractures require hospitalisation, may end in nursing home admission, and are linked to a higher chance of mortality the following year. Falls can cause brain or spinal injuries, which the patient may find challenging to describe in detail.

The percentage of spinal cord injuries caused by falls in people older than 65 has doubled in the last ten years, possibly as a result of increased exercise in this age group. Some falls cause the victim to spend a considerable amount of time on the ground; in this situation, fractures and CNS damage are of special concern.

Risk elements for falls

Some risk factors for falls are modifiable, including extrinsic risk factors like polypharmacy and environmental factors, as well as innate risk factors like gait and balance problems. Falls are significantly more likely to occur when there are numerous risk factors present. summarises a meta-analysis of research identifying the main causes of falls. Another significant risk factor is polypharmacy, which is defined as the use of four or more prescription drugs.

Evaluation of the patient who has falls

The most effective strategy is to find the high-risk patient in advance, before a serious injury occurs. Adults who live in the neighbourhood should be questioned about falls at least once a year. With the Timed Up and Go (TUG) exam, a patient is timed as they get out of a chair, walk 10 feet, turn, and then sit down. Patients who have a history of falling or who take longer than 12 seconds to finish the TUG test are at a higher risk of falling and should receive additional evaluation.

Examination of the body

Basic cardiac testing, including orthostatic blood pressure monitoring if the patient's history suggests it, and evaluation of any orthopaedic abnormalities should all be done on patients who frequently fall. The neurological examination should also check for visual acuity, lower extremity strength and sensation, muscle tone, and cerebellar function, paying close attention to gait and balance. Mental state can be easily determined while taking the patient's history.

Fall Observations

It may be possible to learn more about the underlying aetiology from the description of a fall incident. Although there is no established nomenclature for falls, some prevalent clinical patterns may appear and offer a hint.

Drop Attacks And Falling Down

Drop attacks and collapsing accidents are linked to a sudden lack of postural tone. Patients may claim that they simply "gave out" from underneath themselves or that they "collapsed in a heap." Certain accidents may be caused by syncope or orthostatic hypotension. There are a few neurological conditions that can lead to acute obstructive hydrocephalus, such as atonic seizures, myoclonus, and sporadic obstruction of the foramen of Monro by a colloid cyst of the third ventricle.

Falls Associated with Sensual Loss

Patients are more likely to stumble if they have somatosensory, visual, or vestibular impairments. These patients find it particularly challenging to cope with dim lighting or uneven terrain. They frequently describe a subjective feeling of imbalance, anxiety, and dread of falling. These individuals might respond particularly well to a rehabilitation-based intervention.

Falls Resulting From Weakness

Antigravity muscle weakness makes it challenging for patients to stand up from a chair or keep their balance after a disturbance. After falling, these patients frequently are unable to get up and may have to wait for assistance for a while on the floor.


Reducing the Risk of Falls and Injuries Through Interventions

Determining the cause of the gait disorder and the mechanism causing a particular patient's falls should be a priority. It is important to note any orthostatic variations in pulse and blood pressure. It is important to consider protection when getting up from a chair and walking. Once a diagnosis is made, a specific course of action may be feasible.

Even if no neurologic illness is found, therapeutic intervention is frequently suggested for elderly patients who are at high risk for falls. Checking your house for environmental dangers can be useful. To increase safety, a number of adjustments might be suggested, such as better illumination, grab bars, and non slip surfaces.

Interventions for rehabilitation are designed to increase the patient's muscle power, balance stability, and injury resistance. Even in elderly patients who are frail, high-intensity resistance training on machines and with weights can help increase muscular mass. The danger of falling and getting hurt should decrease as posture and gait are improved.

Another method for increasing steadiness in balance is sensory balance training. A 10- to 20-minute home exercise programme can result in measurable improvements in just a few weeks of training and effects can last for six months.