Is Your Child Walking or Running Properly?

Do you find that your child is often clumsy, falling down a lot, especially on uneven terrain? Have they suffered an injury and they just don’t seem to walk or run quite that well anymore? Do they complain of their legs hurting or just feeling tired? Then their walking pattern and muscles may need help.

As children grow, their body is in a constant state of change. Muscles and bones are lengthening, the nervous system and reflexes continue to develop, and their physical abilities change. Look at how the running and sports skills are of a 3 year old, compared to a 9 year old.

In today’s world of sitting for long periods of time at school and sedentary lifestyle, crucial hip and spinal muscles may become weak. This can lead to abnormal strains and stresses on your child’s knee and ankle joints. Furthermore, they may experience difficulties with walking distances or running.

Here are common symptoms of poor hip muscle control:

  • Less desire to be active
  • Pain or aches to the thighs, knees or ankles
  • Uneven wearing of shoe soles
  • Clumsiness with walking, running or playing, especially on uneven surfaces such as grass
  • High difficulty with backwards walking and running Fatigues very easily with running
  • Tends to swing legs out more to the side or scuffs feet when walking or running

How to test for problems with your child’s walking (ages 3+)

  • Have your child stand 20 ft from you, and then walk towards you. Do their hips, knees, arms and legs move symmetrically?
  • Have your child stand 20 ft from you and have them walk backwards for you. Analyze for the same symmetries. Backwards walking is where you will discover a lot of coordination difficulties if they are present.
  • Have your child do side stepping for 20 ft in both directions. Do they get tired in one direction vs. the other? This can be a sign of one sided muscle weakness, which is quite common.
  • Have your child do side skipping quickly and see if they are coordinated in their ability to do this. This skill is higher level and children typically have to be older, such as 5+.
  • Have your child run bringing their knees up very high. Look for any difficulties doing these motions.

What to do if your child has walking or running problems
The sooner you can address these problems, the better. It is important to see a pediatric physical therapist, whose main specialty is analyzing your child’s physical motion. They can discover the root cause of the problem, which is typically poor flexibility, coordination or muscle weakness. A treatment plan can then be made to improve strength, coordination and flexibility with gentle hands on therapy, special exercises and education.

The first step is to have a thorough evaluation of your child’s movements and abilities. Capturing the problem early means that your child can be setup for physical success with sports, play and activities. Furthermore, many long-term adult problems, such as low back pain, knee arthritis and more can be avoided with early physical therapy. Call us today for a free pediatric screening or talk to one of our specialized pediatric physical therapists about your child. We can help put the spring back in your child’s step!