Why do I limp when I walk (and how do I stop)?
Limping is characterized by a noticeable unevenness in the way a person walks, with one leg appearing to be weaker or in more pain than the other. You may start limping immediately after a leg injury, or you may have noticed that your limping developed over time. If you’ve started limping every time you walk, you may be wondering how you can stop.
Limping can be a symptom of a wide range of conditions and injuries and may be linked to underlying health problems. Understanding the root causes of your limping is an important step in finding an effective treatment to stop limping and get back to normal activities.
Thankfully, medical professionals like physical therapists can help you determine the reason behind your limping and help you find a treatment plan that helps you stop as soon as possible, safely and effectively.
Why am I limping when I walk?
Between injuries and the development of conditions, there are many reasons why you may limp when you walk. Of course, it’s important to consult a medical professional who can determine the cause of your limping and recommend the most appropriate treatment options so you can overcome your limp. The change in your walking pattern may be due to:
- Arthritis — Arthritis causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the joints. This can make it difficult to move your ankles and knees with their full range of motion and can lead to muscle weakness and decreased flexibility. As a result, you may alter the way you walk to avoid putting weight or pressure on your affected joint — whether your knee, hip or ankle. In some cases, your joint may be so damaged from arthritis that it can no longer support your weight, making limping a common symptom.
- Fractured or broken bone — After a high-impact injury like slipping and falling, you may have sustained a fracture or broken bone in your legs or feet. After a fracture, you may feel pain when putting weight or pressure on your foot or knee. As a result, you may alter the way you walk to avoid worsening your painful symptoms. A fracture or bone break may also lead to weakness and decreased flexibility in your injured leg. If your fracture is severe, it can cause your bone to shift out of place, which can lead to a misalignment of your joints and further difficulty walking.
- Overuse or repetitive strain injuries — Overuse injuries occur when the same muscle group or joint is repeatedly used or stressed, resulting in damage to your muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones. This can cause pain and inflammation in your feet or legs, which can make it difficult to walk with a full range of motion. Overuse injuries are common in athletes, runners and people who engage in repetitive motions at work.
- Nerve damage or neuropathy — Nerve damage can affect the ability of your nerves to transmit signals to your muscles. After nerve damage in your legs, you may feel a tingling or burning sensation as well as decreased mobility. You will likely be in pain when putting weight or pressure on your leg, causing you to limp. Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, disease, infection, or compression of the nerve. Examples of nerve damage that may cause limping are peripheral neuropathy, sciatica, and nerve compression from herniated disc.
What can you do to stop limping when you walk?
There are several things that can be done to stop limping when walking, depending on the underlying cause of your limping. Some general strategies include:
- Resting your legs — If you have an injury or overuse injury, resting your feet and legs can help to reduce pain and inflammation, prevent further injury, and allow your injury to heal.
- Wearing orthotics — For some conditions, orthotics such as shoe inserts or braces can help redistribute weight and pressure away from your injured foot and reduce limping. Your doctor can prescribe orthotics that are molded according to your feet and gait pattern.
- Wearing proper footwear — Sometimes, your limping symptoms can worsen when wearing ill-fitting or worn-out shoes. It is therefore important to make sure that your shoes are snug around your feet and do not constantly rub against your heels or toes. Wearing shoes that fit properly and provide adequate support and cushioning can help reduce the pressure on the joints and muscles in your legs, thereby reducing limping and your risk of falling.
- Going to physical therapy — Physical therapy can help you stop limping by identifying and addressing the underlying cause of your limp, such as an injury or muscle weakness. A physical therapist may use a variety of techniques, including exercises, stretches, and manual therapy, to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion in your legs. They may also provide education on proper body mechanics and techniques for reducing pain and inflammation. Additionally, physical therapy can help improve balance and coordination, which can help reduce your risk of falls and further injury.
Franklin Rehab can help you find out why you’re limping and help you stop
Are you frustrated by limping every time you walk? Physical therapy can help restore your walking pattern so that your gait is more predictable and comfortable. Our team of expert therapists at Franklin Rehabilitation can evaluate your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help encourage your legs and feet to heal so you can stop limping. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.