Wondering if crouch gait in cerebral palsy patients is permanent?
While it can be worrisome when your child starts to walk abnormally, there are some interventions you can seek to encourage normal walking.
This article will explain what causes crouch gait in children with cerebral palsy and what you can do to fix it.
What is Crouch Gait?
Crouch gait is an abnormal walking pattern that is common in children with spastic cerebral palsy.
It’s characterized by:
- the backward bending of the ankles (ankle dorsiflexion)
- bent knees (knee flexion)
- bent hips (hip flexion)
It’s caused by various muscle imbalances and if not properly taken care of, crouch gait can progressively worsen. This can result in an inability to walk, instability, and poor posture.
Other negative consequences of crouch gait are muscle stiffness, expending more energy, and chronic pain.
While cerebral palsy does not get worse over time, spasticity can.
Spasticity is when muscles involuntarily stay contracted.
In cerebral palsy patients, the brain is unable to tell the affected muscles to relax, so they stay contracted.
When children with spasticity in their legs learn to walk, they develop abnormal gait patterns like crouch gait.
Fatigue and Joint Pain
Walking with crouch gait uses up more energy than normal walking, which causes fatigue and joint pain.
Essentially, your body has to work harder to stay balanced, and because your ankles, knees, and hips are continuously bent, some muscles are constantly being strained, while others are underused.
This muscle imbalance increases joint pressure and can result in chronic pain.
Treating Crouch Gait in Cerebral Palsy Patients
When it comes to fixing crouch gait, you need to treat the underlying spasticity.
Failure to do so will harm your child’s stability, posture, and joint strength in the long run.
The earlier you catch your child’s abnormal gait pattern, the easier it will be to fix.
Children that habituate crouch gait will find it difficult to walk correctly, even after reducing spasticity.
It’s essential to fix form over function.
Children with impaired motor control won’t magically fix their abnormal gait.
Orthotic devices like braces can help promote proper form.
They hold limbs in place to subtly stretch the muscle and prevent further contractions.
Botox is a medication that physicians will inject into spastic muscles.
It blocks the overactive nerve signals and temporarily relieves high muscle tone.
This provides a window of opportunity for your child to practice walking with proper form.
3. Baclofen Pump
The surgery to implant a baclofen pump under the skin of the abdomen allows a consistent supply of baclofen to flow into the spinal cord.
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that, like Botox, relieves high muscle tone.
Because the drug is administered directly to the spinal cord, you don’t need as high of a dose than you would if you were to take it orally.
However, the pump does need regular refills, so baclofen pumps may not be the most ideal treatment for children.
4. Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy
Selective dorsal rhizotomy is a surgery that involves selectively cutting overactive sensory nerve fibers.
By limiting the communication between the muscles and the brain, spasticity is significantly reduced.
5. Single-Event Multi-Level Surgery (SEMLS)
SEMLS is the most invasive type of surgery for spasticity.
Essentially, it’s a series of surgeries start at the hips and end at the feet.
Each muscle imbalance or bone deformity is addressed one by one.
This can involve lengthening tendons, moving muscles, and altering bones.
Fixing the alignment of the musculoskeletal system is able to significantly reduce spasticity without directly intervening with the central nervous system.
6. Physical Therapy
Lastly and most importantly, intensive physical therapy is essential for treating abnormal gait patterns like crouch gait.
Whether your child uses a brace, Botox, or gets surgery to treat spasticity, they must participate in intensive physical training to fix their gait.
The physical therapy must be challenging and frequent to activate neuroplasticity in the brain and replace the old walking pattern.
That’s a Wrap!
Early intervention for treating crouch gait in cerebral palsy patients is ideal.
You want to catch the abnormal walking pattern early before spasticity worsens and negative habits form.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand why crouch gait in cerebral palsy patients occurs and how to go about treating it.