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Hope and Health

Your source to help with your family's health from WVU Medicine Children's

Hope & Health
Articles and Updates from WVU Medicine Children's

03/3/2024 | Stephanie L. Ferimer, MD

Why Is My Child Having Difficulty Walking?

There can be multiple different reasons a child is having trouble with walking. For instance, it could be muscle tightness causing them to walk up on their toes, or it could be tightness in the structures connecting bones and muscles together across joints. Sometimes there could be a change in the nerve structure within the brain or the spinal cord that makes it difficult for your child to walk effectively.

What is a Pediatric Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician?

A pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation physician is a doctor trained to evaluate a child’s gait and help recommendations on treatments/testing. As this doctor learns more about your child and their level of function, it can help them recommend what tasks a child might need more help with day-to-day. The doctor also looks at the child as a whole patient and may suggest the child be seen by additional specialists to treat problems with either the muscles, bones, or nerves of the body.

What Might a Pediatric Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist Physician Order?

They might order different types of therapies. These might include physical therapy that evaluates and treats big motor movements. Or the doctor might recommend occupational therapy to help the child with day-to-day tasks. Additionally, the doctor might recommend speech language therapy that can help with difficulties related to communication or swallowing.

How Do Therapies Help?

Therapy referrals typically start with a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s functional needs based on the therapist they are seeing. For example, an occupational therapist could ask about your child’s current progress with their developmental milestones and suggest treatments or exercises that might help your child work on a specific goal. Or a physical therapist could examine your child’s muscle movements and their gait (walking) and develop a specific exercise program to help them with stretching if they notice tightness in their muscles or joints of their body.

After your child participates in these evaluations, reports are created that are sent to the physician for review. These reports help the physician treat your child’s functional needs. It also determines if additional testing should be ordered such as imaging.

Why See a Pediatric Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist?

Our goal is to help children suffering from a disability, disease, disorder, or injury improve function and participate in daily activities. That may also include tone management, which means helping to support or treat tight or loose muscles. As part of the evaluation, we may also suggest different equipment to assist your child with their walking. This equipment could include a walker or leg bracing. Leg braces are made by a specialist called an orthotist. An orthotist works closely with the physician to create custom-fit molded plastic braces to support the child’s legs. We work closely with all members of the rehabilitation team and collaborate to help your child meet their goals. As a patient-centered members of the healthcare team, our goal is to work closely together to help children reach their full potential.

To make an appointment, contact us at 304-598-4830. We are eager to help you and your child with their functional needs.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Ferimer, MD, is an assistant professor in the WVU Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is fellowship trained and board certified in pediatric rehabilitation to be able to care for children with functional rehabilitation needs. Dr. Ferimer evaluates and examines patients with complex medical conditions who could have impairments in the musculoskeletal or neurological systems. Based on these assessments, it guides her recommendations for rehabilitation treatments or interventions to help work on their functional goals and support the child’s caregivers.

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