Gait Abnormalities in Children
Seeing your child walk for the first time is a big deal, and with today’s technology, toddling steps can be posted everywhere for the world to watch. It is far from unnatural for parents to be focusing on their child’s first independent movements, and in doing so they might begin to notice quirks that go against their expectations.
Gait abnormalities in children—at least compared to normal adult movement—are common. While not often an immediate concern, they are still well worth keeping an eye on.
First, let’s discuss the marks by which a child’s motor development are compared. There are many, but some that focus on getting around include:
- Crawling on hands and knees: 9-11 months
- Walking independently: 12-14 months
- Running stiffly: 16 months
- Walking up steps (one foot after the other): 3 years
As your child develops his or her motor skills, there may be visible gait abnormalities. A 1-year-old, for example, will tend to walk with short, quick steps and a wider stance. There may also be other peculiarities, but in most cases a child will grow out of them as their strength and coordination improve.
Common Gait Abnormalities
Keeping proper track of a child’s gait usually requires a consideration of his or her developmental milestones and the symptoms he or she may be exhibiting. Below are several common gait problems seen in children.
In-toeing and out-toeing are the most frequent abnormalities that we see, and appear as the child’s feet turning inward or outward as they walk. These curvatures can be caused by the turning of the upper or lower leg bones, which is thought to be attributed either to genetics or sometimes the position of the fetus as it grows in the womb. In many cases, these conditions will improve on their own.
Toe walking is the tendency for a child to walk on only his or her toes, not incorporating the heel. This might also be a family trait, but could also be the result of a tight Achilles tendon. Although it might be strange to see at first, most children will outgrow this abnormality by age 3.
Flexible flatfoot shows as your child’s arches disappearing while standing, but often reappearing when they sit or rise onto their toes. This is commonly seen as the arch of a child’s foot develops and often corrects itself after the age of 5.
Setting Things Straight
Most gait abnormalities in children cause no pain or discomfort whatsoever, but it is still a wise idea to have these conditions evaluated by a professional to ensure that they stem from normal development and not underlying problems such as muscular or neurological conditions. If an abnormality is accompanied by pain or additional symptoms, then the need for medical intervention is vital!
In many cases, no treatment will be necessary; only evaluation. In other cases, non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy or custom orthotics might be recommended to reduce symptoms or aid in healthy development. Only in rare cases might surgery be a necessary option.
If you have any concerns about your child’s movement whatsoever, please feel free to contact Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper at (812) 481-7200. We’re more than happy to provide answers and help ensure the healthy development of your child’s locomotion.
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