Gait problems are usually related to several factors.
Muscle weakness is a common cause of gait difficulty. If both legs are affected,
this is known as paraparesis; if only one leg is weak, it is called monoparesis.
Patients may also have a foot drop that can cause them to stumble or trip.
Weakness can often be compensated for by appropriate braces, canes, walkers, or
other assistive devices.
Muscle tightness or spasticity can also interfere with gait. This generally
responds to an antispasticity medication such as baclofen or tizanidine.
Stretching exercises are also helpful.
Balance problems generally result in a swaying, “drunken” type of gait known
as ataxia. Severe ataxia generally
means the person would benefit from the use of an assistive device.
Some MS patients have such severe numbness in their feet that they cannot feel
the floor or know where their feet are. This is known as a “sensory ataxia.”
gait problems can be helped to some extent by physical therapy which includes
exercises and gait training, by use of appropriate assistive devices, and in
some cases by medications. Each person's gait disorder needs to be evaluated on
an individual basis by a physician, and an appropriate therapy program developed
to suit that individual.