When you are unable to walk normally and keep your balance this is called an abnormal gait. You may stagger or walk awkwardly. Difficulty walking may be a temporary symptom but if left untreated, it can become permanent.
Difficulties walking can be caused by arthritis, spinal cord injury, brain injury or even shoes that don’t fit well.
You may experience difficulty walking because of the following:
- Painful injury to your leg or feet may make it difficult to walk well.
- Some people are born with disease affecting bone, joint or muscle development.
- In some others, lack of a balanced diet or too little food (due to poverty) can cause poor development of bones and muscles.
- Injury to the brain may leave some part of your body weak and unable to support balance.
- Medications that treat high blood pressure and depression may affect your balance when you move suddenly.
- Old age and long term disease may also lead to loss of muscles.
See your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Severe headaches after a head injury.
- An infection of the inner ear.
- Your symptoms started suddenly, without any known cause.
- The symptoms affect your ability to do work and function socially.
- If you are experiencing muscle, joint or bone pain.
- Sudden muscle wasting or weight loss.
Most people with difficulties walking cannot prevent the symptom, but you may be able to treat the underlying condition and reduce the severity.
Treatment depends on the cause, and your healthcare provider may recommend medicines, therapy or surgery.
- Malnourished children can be given foods rich in calcium (like milk) and green leafy vegetables (like pumpkin/ ugwu and spinach/ efo).
- Children can be given plumpy nuts and soya meal replacements to correct the effects of malnutrition in children.
- Patients taking medicines for hypertension should be advised not to make sudden movements. Reducing the dose of antihypertensives may help some patients.
- You can use suitable walking aids like canes or wheelchairs for the elderly and people with muscle loss.
- You can use supplements like N-Acetyl cysteine, this can be used to slow down muscle loss.
- Medicines (like hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate) that reduce pain and improve function are useful in most patients.
- Your healthcare provider may ask you to do some tests. This is to identify the cause of your walking problems, and help them determine your care direction.
- Physiotherapy can reduce pain and improve function in some people.
The cause of your balance problems will largely determine how well you recover. Your healthcare provider is there to support you through this process of finding the cause, guiding treatment and providing support to you. You may feel anxious about participating in parties, work or other social events due to gait problems. Dress well to improve your confidence. Practice using a torchlight when walking at night. Use recommended support devices like walking sticks that can help you cope in the long run and avoid more injury.