Gait Dysfunction in Connective Tissue Disease and Arthritis

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Gait defects in arthritis vary widely and arise from numerous contributing factors. Chief among these is the varying clinical presentation of the more than 100 connective tissue diseases diagnoses that are referred to as arthritis. The musculoskeletal manifestations of these connective tissue disease typically are distributed among 4 categories of findings: (1) loss of joint mobility, (2) joint instability and deformity, (3) muscle weakness, and (4) musculoskeletal pain. These 4 sources of musculoskeletal impairment combine to create gait defects that include single joint or lower quadrant movement limitation; excessive and abnormal movement during gait; fixed joint deformities; and changes in symmetry, cadence and kinematics of normal gait patterns. The clinician must observe carefully the interaction of joint movement with the disease, muscle weakness about these joints, and pain associated with weight bearing and gait so as to define the underlying musculoskeletal problems and determine appropriate strategies for intervention.