A severely antalgic gait or posture refers to an unnatural limp or position that develops in response to pain caused by inflammation or injury.
The spine has a complex architecture that gives it flexibility and stability. It helps the body perform bending movements and load-bearing functions. Rather than being one continuous structure, the spine is composed of ring-like bones called vertebrae with cushioning tissue called intervertebral discs in between. Various nerves of the spine affect different parts of the body.
Conditions that cause inflammation in the bones or discs and presses on these nerves can cause intense pain. In response to this pain, a person may develop a specific walk or posture. Usually, the pain affects the hips, legs, and feet.
8 causes of antalgic gait
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is an age-related (degenerative) condition that causes joints in the body to erode, including the spinal bones.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder where the body produces abnormal antibodies that attack healthy tissues rather than foreign bodies. This causes wear and tear to bones and ligaments in the spine.
- Bone infection: Tuberculosis or osteomyelitis due to bacteria can cause erosion and swelling of bones.
- Bone injury: Direct hit or trauma can damage the spine and vertebral discs.
- Cancer or tumor: Cancer cells often invade the limited space between spinal bones and compress discs and nerves, causing extreme pain.
- Sciatica: Irritation of the sciatic nerve can result in pain in the legs and pelvic region.
- Autoimmune diseases: Inflammation of the spinal discs due to autoimmune diseases, such as ankylosing spondylosis, can cause pain that leads to antalgic gait.
- Other inflammatory causes: Other causes may include rickets, vitamin D deficiency, and gout.
What are the symptoms of antalgic gait?
Pain symptoms vary depending on the nerve being compressed, but antalgic gait is typically associated with:
How is antalgic gait diagnosed?
Joints are examined for redness, stiffness, tenderness, and swelling. Imaging tests may also be ordered to assess bone conditions:
- X-rays: X-rays on the affected joint are compared to those done on a healthy joint.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRIs provide greater details than X-ray imaging.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasounds may be used to check for the presence of fluid in the joints.
- Inflammatory markers: Bloodwork that comes back positive for these markers may indicate infections or autoimmune diseases.
How is antalgic gait treated?
- Pain-relief medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease pain and inflammation in the affected joint.
- Hot compresses in conditions such as sciatica in which heat can alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Physiotherapy to improve joint stiffness and deformation.
- Antibiotics can be helpful if a joint or disc is infected.
- Supports such as canes or crutches to decrease the pressure on affected joints and prevent further progression of the disease.
- Adequate rest which promotes healing in the body.
Auerbach N, Tadi P. Antalgic Gait in Adults. [Updated 2021 Sep 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559243/
The Cure Back Pain Network. Antalgia. https://www.cure-back-pain.org/antalgia.html
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