Use of Gait Analysis to Assess Biomechanical Abnormalities

Walking is a motion that requires accurate coordination of a number of different musculoskeletal groups. For this reason, abnormalities in a patient’s gait can be highly informative of a number of different issues, from diabetic foot complications to acute sports injuries. Gait analysis is a practice that was first introduced in the 1970s and has since been used to clinically investigate the source of nervous, skeletal, or muscular afflictions, as well as biomechanical abnormalities in the feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, and back. It is used as both a preventative tool and a measurement of progress for patients undergoing treatment. 

Gait analysis can be performed using a wide range of technology, and methodology has continually improved throughout recent years. i,ii Footstep analysis can be performed using a pressure-sensitive compression pad, which is used to quantify stride length and stepping pace while also capturing impressions of a patient’s footfall. Such analysis can be highly informative of an individual’s balance and the overall consistency of their gait. iii Force and pressure measurements may be taken using a pressure-sensitive walkway attached to a computer, which then generates images to visualize a patient’s biomechanics. Scanning electronics and 3D sensors have also been used to help measure asymmetrical gait patterns. However, the most common and cost-effective form of gait analysis involves taking video footage of the patient walking in various directions and from different angles. iii The patient may walk on a flat surface or a treadmill, where incline and speed can be manually manipulated, and external motion sensors may also be worn for quantitative measurements. 

Specific trends in gait abnormalities have been associated with a number of different conditions. For example, one study found that patients afflicted with spinal disorders had significantly slower gait speed and step length, as well as increased step width, as compared to controls.i Another study established specific kinematic and kinetic gait parameters for patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy, in which the authors noted significant decreases in knee flexion during swing, total sagittal knee range of motion, and peak ankle plantar flexion.ii Raccagni et al. found that gait analysis could successfully distinguish between idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and atypical parkinsonian disorders, suggesting a high degree of diagnostic accuracy.iii  

These findings demonstrate that gait analysis provides a highly nuanced way of characterized biomechanical abnormalities and can be used in both a diagnostic manner and as a measure of disease or recovery progression. It is therefore of great clinical use to perform gait analysis on patients with lower-body and spinal afflictions alongside other diagnostic tests.  


i. Haddas, R., Ju, K.L., Belanger, T. et al. The use of gait analysis in the assessment of patients afflicted with spinal disorders. European Spine Journal 27, 1712–1723 (2018). 

ii. Malone, A., Meldrum, D., & Bolger, C. (2012). Gait impairment in cervical spondylotic myelopathy: comparison with age- and gender-matched healthy controls. European Spine Journal 21(12), 2456–2466. 

iii. Raccagni, C., Gaßner, H., Eschlboeck, S., Boesch, S., Krismer, F., Seppi, K., Poewe, W., Eskofier, B. M., Winkler, J., Wenning, G., & Klucken, J. (2018). Sensor-based gait analysis in atypical parkinsonian disorders. Brain and Behavior 8(6), e00977.