If you are having a hard time walking correctly after injury or illness, you may need to visit a physical therapist to work on your gait. Gait simply refers to the way you walk. You may have a problem with your gait if you have leg weakness due to a stroke, an ankle injury like a sprain or ankle fracture, or if you have been hospitalized and are simply deconditioned. Gait abnormalities also occur after lower extremity surgery like joint replacement surgery.
The Gaitometer is a patented iPhone or iPod Touch application that is used to measure asymmetry in your gait and provide you with feedback about your gait. That way, you may be able to improve your walking ability.
How Does Gaitometer Work?
You iPhone and iPod Touch use gyroscopic technology and accelerometers. The Gaitometer application uses the accelerometer to measure the time it takes for you to take each step while walking. The time from one step to the next, referred to as your cadence, is compared, and a ratio is displayed. This ratio should be close to 1 if you are taking equal steps while walking. The greater deviation in your cadence, the greater the ratio.
The Gaitometer is to be worn close to the center of your body. The information on the Gaitometer website suggests wearing your device in a case, a fanny pack, or in your beltline with the application running. A small lock can be pressed on the screen to prevent other buttons from bing pushed while the application is working.
The Gaitometer can be set up to give you audible feedback in the form of a beep or click for every step you take. If you gait is uneven, your cadence ratio will be increased, and the Gaitometer will beep indicating that your gait is asymmetrical. Then you can try to make adjustments in your walking to improve your gait.
Can the Gaitometer Replace My Physical Therapist for Gait Training?
A quick visit to the Gaitometer website can answer this question. The Gaitometer is simply a way to measure asymmetry in your gait. The application on the iPhone and the website both indicate that the Gaitometer is not to replace the skilled gait training that is provided by your physical therapist or health care provider. The Gaitometer can provide you with real time feedback about your walking so you can make minor changes to your gait to improve your walking. Only your physical therapist can provide you with qualitative information about your gait and can offer solutions, like knee and hip strengthening or balance exercises, to help improve your gait.
My Review of Gaitometer
The Gaitometer application is available for download at the Apple App Store for the price of $2.99 (USD). Upon opening the application for the first time, it took me about 3 minutes of playing around until I felt comfortable with the controls of the Gaitometer. The screen is well laid out and easy to understand.
One challenge I had was finding something to keep my iPhone secrued to the front and center of my body while using the Gaitometer. I didn't have a phone case with a belt clip, so I just tucked my phone into my belt during use.
The first time I walked with the Gaitometer, it did not register my steps. I must walk pretty lightly. Luckily there is a sensitivity adjustment that can make the application more or less sensitive to accomodate various walking styles.
There is also an adjustment about how sensitive you would like to be in regards to your cadence ratio. I initially had it set too sensitive, so the application would click and beep at every step. This sounded like too much noise, and I was unable to make any real adjustment in my gait as a result. After I widened the cadence ratio sensitivity, I walked and the Gaitometer clicked away as I went, indicating that my gait was pretty symmetrical.
After a few steps, I then started walking with a limp, and the Gaitometer picked up on it right away, offering me feedback in the form of loud beeps. After walking like this for a few steps, I changed back to my normal style, and the Gaitometer also changed back to the symmetrical clicking.
After walking, the Gaitometer was able to show me a small cartoon avitar of my personal walking style that was just measured. I found this a useful indicator of what I may have looked like while limping.
The Gaitometer also keeps a history of each time you use the application. I suppose that this may be useful if you were to track progress over a long period of time. Since I had no real injury, and hence no gait abnormality, I didn't use the history function.
One con of the Gaitometer is that there is no indication that is has been rigorously tested in a laboratory situation, so if it really helps to improve your gait is unknown. The Gaitometer is simply a tool to provide you with feedback about whether your gait is symmetrical or not.
The Gaitometer can be a useful tool to provide users with real time feedback of their walking style and gait cadence asymmetries. The low cost of $2.99 makes it affordable to almost anyone with an iPhone or iPod Touch.
If you are having trouble walking due to an injury or illness, you should speak with your doctor and visit a physical therapist for a gait analysis. He or she can prescribe exercises that can help improve your walking ability. The Gaitometer appliation for the iPhone or iPod Touch may help to augment that treatment that is provided by your physical therapist.