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What is a Spastic Gait?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A spastic gait is an abnormality in the way a person walks. When a person has this kind of gait, his legs are typically weak and abnormally stiff. As he walks, he holds his legs closer together than normal, drags his feet or toes, and lacks the typical flexibility in his ankles and knees. Often, people with cerebral palsy exhibit this type of walking. Other conditions, including brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, may also contribute to this type of walk, however; it may even develop after a person has a stroke.

When a person has this kind of gait, his legs, toes, and feet are stiffer than normal. He typically does not flex his muscles and bend his legs as he walks. Instead, long-term muscle contractions usually affect one side of his body and cause him to drag one foot or his toes when he walks.

There are several conditions that may be associated with this gait. Some people, for example, have this gait abnormality as one of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, though it does not affect everyone with this condition. An individual may also develop it after suffering a stroke or because of a brain abscess. In some cases, spastic gait is even associated with brain tumors or multiple sclerosis.

There are treatments for this condition, although they may not cure a person with this gait abnormality. Instead, many of them help to encourage a more typical walking pattern. For example, exercises are often used to treat a person with a spastic gait. A physical therapist typically provides these exercises and instructs patients on how to perform them at home.

Many doctors recommend that people with this walking abnormality use two types of exercises: passive and active. When another person assists the movements of a person with a spastic gait, this is referred to as passive exercise. If the person performs the movements on his own, they are referred to as active exercises.

Leg braces may also be used to keep a person’s legs and feet properly positioned as he stands and walks. Shoe splints may be used for the same purposes. If a person has problems with balance while walking or standing, a walker may prove helpful for dealing with this gait abnormality as well.

Sometimes medications may also be used to treat this gait problem. For example, medicines may be used to reduce muscle contraction, but the effects of many medications are still being studied. Surgery may be used in severe cases as well.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By wavy58 — On Nov 03, 2011

Has anyone had much success with physical therapy to treat a spastic gait? My grandmother had a stroke last year, and she has sort of given up hope of being able to walk normally again. I'd like to take her to therapy, but first, I'd like to know how well it works.

She is in her seventies, so that might affect the outcome of therapy. She was in fairly good shape before the stroke, though. She walked half a mile every day to stay fit.

It would be awesome if a good therapist could recommend some exercises to help her. She is going stir crazy sitting at home, and she is embarrassed to go anywhere while her gait is inhibited.

By shell4life — On Nov 02, 2011

@OeKc05 – Kids presented with challenges often develop far more character than those who breeze through life. There was a guy with cerebral palsy in my class in high school, and he was one of the deepest and most intelligent people I have ever met.

He did have a spastic gait, so of course, he got teased as well. He also had involuntary spasms, and he had to have help taking notes. They wound up putting him in a special class to give him the extra physical help he needed.

He never paid any attention to the teasing. I believe his spastic gait earned him the nickname “Robot,” but he took no offense to it.

I always knew he would turn out to be someone important, and I was right. I saw him on the cover of a technical magazine the other day. He had invented something too deep for me to understand, but he received a lot of acclaim for it.

By OeKc05 — On Nov 02, 2011

My heart went out to this kid in school who had cerebral palsy. He couldn't walk right, and some of the meaner kids made fun of him.

They would even run up behind him and thump him in the head. He couldn't escape them, because he had to walk slowly.

They started calling him “zombie boy,” because he drug his feet like those monsters in movies. He took the teasing like a man, and he never broke down and cried. I always admired him for that.

By orangey03 — On Nov 01, 2011

The owner of the company I work for has a spastic gait. At first, I thought it might just be arthritis, but after reading this article, I think he must suffer from a more serious condition.

Just a few years ago, he walked normally. He is in his upper eighties now, and his health seems to be deteriorating rather rapidly. I haven't heard anyone say what's wrong with him, but it is obvious that he isn't well.

When he walks by, he shuffles both feet only a few inches at a time. It's as though his whole body is stiff.

His hands tremble a lot, and I wonder if that has anything to do with his condition. It seems as though he is holding his whole body taut, and the shaking of his hands is an outlet for the tension.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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