Gait refers to the way a person walks, including the
rhythm and speed of the walk. There are many types of
abnormal gait described in the field of medicine.
However, to understand abnormal gait, you first need to
understand what normal gait is like. To begin with,
normal gait is characterized by righting and antigravity
reflexes. This means that your body allows you to resist
the force of gravity by allowing you to rise from a sitting
or lying down position.
Righting and antigravity reflexes also allow your knees, hips, and back to be extended
firmly. This keeps you standing upright and your position can be altered depending on the
position of your head and neck.
Normal gait is also characterized by stepping, in which the bottom of the foot contacts a
flat surface, changing the center of gravity to the other foot. The center of gravity is the
part of the body where the entire weight of the body is concentrated. The change of the
center of gravity allows the other foot to be raised and moved forward. The process
continues as one keeps walking. The next characteristic of normal gait is equilibrium,
which allows balance to be maintained while walking. The final component of normal gait
is propulsion, in which one leans forward and slightly to one side. It is because of
propulsion that the body can fall a certain distance before the support of the legs act to
prevent a fall.
Damage to the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and vestibular (balance)
system can all cause abnormal gait. The cerebellum is an area in
the back, bottom part of the brain that plays an important role in
movement and coordination.
The basal ganglia is an area of gray tissue deep inside the brain
that controls movement.
See these entries for more information on the following types of
the Old Norse word "geta" or "gata," meaning "a way."