By: Rob Stanborough PT, DPT, MHSc, MTC, CMTPT, FAAOMPT

What I mean by shuffling is a way of locomotion or walking. It is very inefficient and may cause leg pain, low back pain, neck pain or falls.

Shuffling is a walking or gait pattern where the trunk is slightly flexed, putting the weight of the body forward. The legs do not come off the ground much causing the feet to skim across the surface of the ground rather than clear it. The stride length also tends to become shortened.

There may be a number of reasons for the change in locomotion and therefore differing solutions. One cause may be neurological. This type of locomotion is often demonstrated by those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Treatment includes movement exaggeration using a method called Big and Loud.

Other causes may be more mechanical. Low back pain can cause one to bend forward to relieve pressure from the spine, the spinal cord or nerve roots. Bending in this matter often alleviates numbness and tingling down the legs but in exchange for other problems such as leg pain or falls. Treatment for this cause may include manual and exerciseto improve motion in the back for pressure relief. Aquatics can also work well.

The bent over posture and shuffling gait may be caused by lower extremity injuries in the hip, knee or ankle that prevent proper clearance of the feet and locomotion compensations. These too can be treated using manual therapy and exercise to increase motion, strength and restore or improve function.

Many physical problems can be remedied in their early stages. All too often we “live with” developing and progressing problems because we either think it’s no big deal or we think we just don’t have time.

Please, take the time. If ignored it only gets worse. It may take months or years but we are masters of compensation. We are constantly making small changes in the way we move and live. If you don’t believe me think about how we used to move at 5, 15, 25, 45 and so on. Motion is lost because we don’t use it. We hike the hip, swing the leg, bend the back forward, push-up with our toes – all with special names and all compensations to help us move through the day.

Don’t wait until you fall. If your feet are not clearing the ground and hitting on the heel when you land, see a physical therapist and get your gait analyzed. Some solutions are involved but most solutions are simple and a matter of making changes in habits.Call us at First Coast Rehabilitation in St. Augustine or Palatka. We can help.

Rob Stanborough is a physical therapist serving St. Augustine for over 10 years. He is president and co-owner of First Coast Rehabilitation, as well as co-author of Myofascial Manipulation:Theory & Application, 3rd ed by Proed Inc. He is certified in manual therapy, a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Therapists and has presented on the topic of soft tissue dysfunction in a variety of venues. Read previous columns posted on www.firstcoastrehab.com.