Before starting treatment for difficulty walking, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to diagnose the underlying cause and type of gait problem. A walking gait analysis can help your doctor determine if the problem is related to skeletal (bone), muscle or nerve issues. Skeletal issues related to osteoarthritis can cause an antalgic gait (limp). Nerve issues, such as a problem with the cerebellum, can cause an ataxic gait (unsteady or staggering). Once a doctor pinpoints the cause of a gait abnormality, the focus turns to treatment. Some treatment plans involve medication to help control the underlying cause or issue, but most cases of difficulty walking involve a combination of therapies designed to improve the person’s ability to walk safely and maintain independence. Medications When an underlying medical condition causes a gait abnormality, your doctor might prescribe medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to treat the pain and stiffness of arthritis that is causing a limp may improve an antalgic gait. In cases of a chronic disease like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or cerebral palsy, the medication plan might be extensive and involve several types of medications. These medications might change as the condition progresses. Most treatment plans for walking difficulty also include lifestyle approaches, such as physical therapy. Physical Therapy Physical therapy often plays a large role in treatment. Ongoing physical therapy improves muscle strength, flexibility and balance, which often makes it easier for a person to walk with a normal gait. In cases where the walking difficulty occurs due to a chronic disorder like Parkinson’s disease, physical therapy can help a person maintain muscle tone and strength as long as possible. Occupational Therapy When it comes to walking difficulty, occupational therapists aim to help you safely perform the common activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing and dressing. An occupational therapist can assess a person’s fall risk and suggest ways to modify the daily routine so that a person with a gait abnormality can maintain independence while minimizing the chance of falling. Occupational therapists may recommend various mobility aids to help you ambulate safely. Medical Walkers and Other Mobility Aids for Walking Difficulty Depending on the cause and severity of your walking difficulty, your doctor or another healthcare professional may recommend you use a mobility aid to help you stay mobile and independent for as long as possible. For instance, an older adult with mild balance issues might benefit from using a wheeled walker (rollator walker) to maintain stability when walking. Your healthcare team might recommend any of the following mobility aids for you. Canes. A single-point or quad cane helps you maintain your balance when walking and offers a point of leverage for rising from a seated position. Walkers. If your problem makes it too difficult to bear full weight on one or both of your legs, your doctor may recommend a standard medical walker (without wheels). There are also two-wheeled walkers suitable for people with balance issues, and rollators with four wheels. Using a rollator also requires good cognitive ability in order to remember to use and lock the hand brakes when appropriate. Electric mobility scooters. If walking becomes very difficult, a powered scooter can help you maintain independence. Most of these devices can maneuver in tight areas, which means you can use them to get around your house and take them into stores. Wheelchairs and transfer chairs. People who cannot walk due to paralysis or potential for danger from falling often use standard wheelchairs to get around. People with less severe walking difficulties also may choose this mode of transportation. Either style of chair can help a person with weak legs get around more easily, but transfer chairs have smaller wheels and require someone to push it. Powered wheelchairs may be good for people with normal cognitive ability but severe difficulty walking. Walking difficulty affects many people, from toddlers with cerebral palsy to older adults with weak legs and balance issues. A comprehensive treatment plan that includes lifestyle adaptations along with medications to treat the underlying cause of the gait abnormality can help you function better in everyday life while minimizing your fall risk.