Physical Therapists: More Than Half of Us ‘Walk Crooked’ — How That Sets Us Up for Falls, Joint Pain + How to Fix It

A Step Toward Better Health: Managing and Rectifying Walking Asymmetry

Walking is something we do without really thinking about it, unless it hurts or we get injured. But, experts and researchers say we should pay attention to how we walk, especially if we have an uneven walk called “walking asymmetry” — as it’s important to our overall health. Surprisingly, a lot of people have some form of walking asymmetry, even if they’re healthy. It’s not just about how it looks; it can make us more likely to have balance problems. Let’s take a closer look at what walking asymmetry means!

Identifying Walking Asymmetry

It’s not always easy to notice if you have walking asymmetry. Some people might feel a bit off-balance or notice a small limp or an unsteady step while walking. In more severe cases, it might feel like you’re walking diagonally or bumping into things.

Identifying Walking Asymmetry

Climbing stairs could also become harder in some cases. Interestingly, sometimes your friends or family might notice these issues before you do. To find out if you have walking asymmetry, you can use modern technology to help.

Causes of Walking Asymmetry

Many people with conditions like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis often experience issues while walking. Orthopedic injuries such as ankle fractures, knee or hip arthritis, ACL tears, or heel pain can also affect how you walk.

Causes of Walking Asymmetry

Things like having legs of different lengths or tightness in your joints, muscles, or connective tissues can make your joints less flexible and limit movement.

Walking Asymmetry and Aging

The risk of developing walking asymmetry tends to rise as we age. Older adults are more susceptible to conditions like osteoarthritis and muscle weakness in one leg, both of which can significantly impact the ability to walk. Research shows that as people get older, the chances of having walking problems go up a lot, increasing by 500%. Also, studies that looked at women between the ages of 65 and 80 found that those with differences in the strength of their knee muscles (specifically, the quadriceps) had more trouble walking. This was especially true when they tried to walk faster.

Prevention and Correction

It’s important to maintain a good exercise routine that includes both strength training and stretching. Managing your weight is also crucial in your overall health, as being overweight can lead to issues such as arthritis in your joints, like knees and hips. If you notice that you feel unsteady while taking a stroll, it’s a good idea to talk to a physical therapist, a kinesiologist, or a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. They can help you figure out what’s going on and how to improve it.