elderly person with osteoarthritis of the hip

Difficulty walking in the elderly: causes (what to do?)

La old age is a normal stage of life. Apart from wrinkles, white hair and hair loss, there is also the regression of various physical abilities. The walking difficulty is part of. But why do most older people face a walking disorder ? Are there any solutions? Find all the answers in this article.

Gait disorders in the elderly: possible causes

Le walking disorder is a particularly common phenomenon in subjects with advanced age. Several causes may be involved in its occurrence. We can cite:

elderly person walking
  • le balance disorder: it is related to thereached inner ear (Ménière's disease, etc.), decreased visual acuity and various neurological damage…;
  • the muscle causes: this mainly concerns the weak calf muscles (responsible for propelling the body forward) which lead to a shortening of the step (the support distance between one heel then the other) and theatrophy muscular ;
  • the driving causes often linked to osteoarticular damage: rheumatism (osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, etc.), arthritis and sequelae of falls;
  • the neurological or central causes: senile dementia, cerebrovascular disease (cerebrovascular accident, etc.), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, the lesion of the spinal cord, Huntington's chorea, damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system, etc.;
  • the metabolic disorders ;
  • the chronic diseases ;
  • taking certain classes of pharmaceuticals (sedatives);
  • the psychological causes : depression, loss of confidence, avoidance, etc.

What to do in the face of a gait disorder in the elderly?

Although the walking disorder is a source of concern and a frequent reason for medical consultation, it is not inevitable. In fact, it alters the quality of life of the individual who is affected. Support by one or more specialized health professionals is therefore necessary.

See a doctor

First of all, it is essential to consult a doctor. For'identify specific causes of the disorder, the healthcare professional will carry out a examination on the difficulties suffered by the patient during walking.

doctor examining medical imagery of his patient's back

Then, he will carry out an evaluation of the walk: balance, speed, cadence, length and height of the step, the asymmetry or the variability of the rhythm. It will also measure the strength of the lower limbs.

And to make the diagnosis correctly, clinical and paraclinical examinations will be offered.

THEexam clinical focuses on a musculoskeletal examination, a neurological examination and a complete physical examination (observation and palpation).

As to paraclinical examinations, they include brain CT or MRI and lumbosacral imaging.

Depending on the causes and the degree of the impairment, a medical treatment will be established.


See a physiotherapist

Physiotherapy sessions are also beneficial for correcting gait problems in the elderly. For good reason, the practitioner prescribes specific exercises well suited to each case.

Strengthening exercises

These are resistance exercises. They consist of improving the speed and strength of walking. Three training sessions per week are sufficient. The exercise load at each session should be increased until the improvement is optimum.

gym in water Difficulty walking in the elderly

In osteoarthritis, resistance or walking exercises not only help improve walking, but also reduce knee pain.

Balance training or proprioception exercise 

They consist in teaching good postures and methods to have a good balance.

Nordic walking

This is a full walking exercise with walking poles of varying lengths. It helps improve muscle endurance and walking speed.

Use walking aids

Sometimes technical aids or assistive devices are useful. They help maintain mobility and quality of life. Occupational therapists can help patients with their choices and teach them how to use them.

walking aid

These devices come in various types.   

  • La cane: it is recommended in case of osteoarthritis pain (hip, knee) and peripheral neuropathy of the feet. Indeed, the cane transmits to the hand which holds it information on the type of surface or the ground. Admittedly, it slows down the patient's walking, but it provides stability.
  • Fullerenes walkers: just like the previous one, it reduces osteoarthritis pain, but requires great strength in the arms and shoulders. Its use ensures good lateral stability and protection against falls.

Fullerenes psychological support may also be necessary in case of psychological causes or in case of manifestation of depression or loss of confidence during treatment.

Fullerenes other treatments (surgical, etc.) are only recommended in the event of extreme causes, such as a fracture following a fall, etc.

 To conclude, the walking difficulty is a common occurrence in the elderly. She is not serious, but on the other hand she requires special support to improve the quality of life of the one who is affected.



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