Unsteady gait treatment after stroke

A stroke is a medical emergency that can have long-term effects on a person’s overall quality of life, especially their cognitive and motor skills. In the U.S., approximately 7.8 million adults have had a stroke, which adds up to more than 3% of the adult population. 

A stroke can impact a person’s ability to speak in a coherent manner or understand a conversation with a loved one. It can also impact their motor skills, making it difficult for them to carry out everyday movements, especially walking. Research shows that approximately 44.1% of people who had a stroke for the first time experienced a lower extremity motor impairment, and 46% weren’t able to walk at all.

Rehabilitation is essential for a person’s recovery journey after a stroke. One of the pivotal aspects of rehab is gait treatment. We’ll talk about why gait treatment after a stroke is important. We’ll also discuss what to expect during the process.

Why it’s important to get unsteady gait treatment after a stroke

The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help an individual gain independence and return to their regular activities after a stroke, to the best of their abilities. Effective stroke rehab will improve every aspect of their functioning. That includes motor development, which is where gait treatment comes in. It will also reduce the risk of falling in the future.

Improving an unsteady gait means boosting several factors that contribute to a person’s movement as they walk, including:

  • Strength
  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Coordination

If a person’s gait is perceived as unsteady after their stroke, it likely means that while they’re able to have motor function in their legs, they can still improve all the facets required for steady and safe movement. Treating an unsteady gait means taking the proper steps to restore their regular gait as much as possible and reduce the risk of future injury.

What’s involved in unsteady gait treatment after a stroke

Gait treatment usually comes from the physical therapy aspect of stroke rehabilitation. There are a variety of techniques that a physical therapist may incorporate into your treatment plan to help improve an unsteady gait. The possibilities include:

  • Exercises — A core part of stroke rehabilitation is exercises that help a patient improve their strength and balance, both of which are needed for a steady gait. These exercises often target muscle groups in the glutes, hip flexors and quadriceps. Each plays a role in helping the patient move their legs forward in a steady manner. Depending on where the patient is in their recovery process, a physical therapist may utilize tools and equipment that will help the patient carry out the exercises safely.
  • Treadmill — When a patient is trying to improve their gait, a physical therapist may recommend body weight-supported treadmill training. It allows them to walk for an extended period of time on a treadmill to work on the dynamics of their gait. It also involves having a harness for fall risk prevention.
  • Neuromuscular reeducation — A stroke impacts the nerves that tell the body’s muscles how to properly move. An unsteady gait after a stroke means that the muscles don’t remember how to function in the way they used to. That’s why neuromuscular reeducation can make a difference. It’s essentially retraining the brain and spinal cord. Hands-on techniques can help encourage normal muscle movements in a controlled manner.
  • Functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike — An FES bike takes the movement of a stationary exercise bike machine and combines it with electrical stimulation for improved muscle function. As a patient is pedaling the FES bike, small electrical pulses are sent to the lower extremity muscles to cause contractions that restore their function or improve the function for a steadier gait. 

The intensity of these techniques will slowly increase as an individual progresses on their journey toward recovery. 

Ability KC can provide gait treatment after a stroke through outpatient stroke rehabilitation

An unsteady gait can interfere with a person’s ability to walk independently and safely without falling. After a stroke, proper rehabilitation can help the overall quality and mobility of a patient’s lower extremities to improve their walking movements. At Ability KC, our outpatient day program can help a patient improve their gait through intensive, individualized therapy services as they transition back to independent living after inpatient care.

Our Stroke Specialty Team makes sure that a person’s stroke rehabilitation covers all the bases, from nursing and physical therapy to occupational therapy and psychology. We help move people along their recovery journey by being by their side every step of the way.

Ability KC is a designated Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility (CORF) with a Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.