I spend a lot of time watching people walk – and while no two people walk exactlywalkingshoes the same way, most walk symmetrically on both legs.  When I see someone limping, it can mean several things as there are several causes to consider.  The limp is a way for your body to compensate something that is wrong mechanically.  Understanding why can help you improve.

First are structural problems.  Alignment of your legs is important in determining how you will walk.  There is a wide range of normal, but the outliers may be knock-kneed or bow-legged.  This can lead to early wear and tear on the knee like a tire out of balance.  The ankles and hips also come into play.  Which came first is a key question:  The alignment problem or the arthritis?  I can help you understand the answer in my office.

Second are neurological issues causing muscle imbalances, in which one muscle may be tighter than another, or stronger than another.  As humans, we are extremely good at compensating for deficiencies.  Neurologic issues usually don’t require surgery but rather good physical therapy.

Finally, stiffness of your joints can be a factor – do you stretch regularly?  While not a big deal in your 20’s and maybe your 30’s, this becomes more important into the 40s and beyond.  Be sure you spend 5-10 minutes stretching after you wake up in the morning, or before any physical exercise or sport.

Once these patterns are a part of you, it can be hard to ‘un-learn’ the habit.  Part of a well-performed hip or knee replacement is a surgical correction of these alignment issues when possible.  Patients often ask how long will this take to go away.  It can take up to a year of working hard at it to rebalance your walking pattern.

To the surprise of many, the limp doesn’t just go away.  It takes time – and practice  – to learn to walk again.  Walking down a hallway toward a mirror can help show you what you are doing help you correct it.  Good physical therapy is important. Be persistent !  Ask me if you have more questions.  Keep your body in motion !