Hemiparetic gait parameters in overground versus treadmill walking

M L Harris-Love, L W Forrester, R F Macko, K H Silver, G V Smith
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 2001, 15 (2): 105-12

OBJECTIVE: Hemiparetic gait is characterized by high stride-cycle variability, diminished stance time, single-limb stance time, and stance/swing ratio in the paretic limb. Recent studies suggest treadmill (TM) training may improve the motor control underlying these variables, but supporting evidence is sparse.

METHODS: This study compared gait patterns of untrained chronic hemiparetic stroke patients (n = 18; mean, 39.5 months poststroke) during overground (OG) and TM walking at matched velocities. Variables included relative stance time, relative single-limb stance time, stance/swing ratio, peak force, and impulse. Within-subject variability of these measures (CV) was used to assess gait pattern stability.

RESULTS: OG and TM cycle durations were similar, but CVs differed (TM < OG, p < 0.05). In the paretic limb, differences were seen in relative stance time, relative single-limb stance time, and stance/swing ratio, respectively (TM > OG, p < 0.05). These variables decreased in the nonparetic limb during TM walking (p < 0.05 for all). Improved interlimb symmetry and coordination were evidenced by decreased between-limb differences and improved relative temporal phasing, respectively, in the TM condition (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, these results demonstrate that the TM induces an immediate alteration toward a more consistent and symmetric gait pattern. Further investigation is needed to determine whether TM training leads to motor relearning and neuroplasticity in chronic hemiparetic subjects.

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