Toe walking in children
Toe walking in children
Walking on the toes or the ball of the foot, also known as toe walking, is fairly common in children who are just beginning to walk. Most children outgrow toe walking. Kids who continue toe walking beyond the toddler years often do so out of habit. As long as your child is growing and developing normally, toe walking on its own is unlikely to be a cause of concern.
Toe walking is sometimes the result of cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or another generalized disease of nerve and muscle. Children with autism also may walk on their toes or the balls of their feet, but many do not.
Toe walking is walking on the toes or the ball of the foot.
When to see a doctor
Typically, toe walking is simply a habit that develops when a child learns to walk. In a few cases, toe walking is caused by an underlying condition, such as:
Toe walking out of habit, also known as idiopathic toe walking, sometimes runs in families.
Persistent toe walking may increase a child's risk of falling.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll probably first bring your concerns to the attention of your family doctor or pediatrician. He or she may refer you to a doctor specializing in nerve function (neurologist) or orthopedic surgery.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Toe walking can be observed during a physical exam. In some cases, the doctor may do an in-depth gait analysis or an exam known as electromyography (EMG). During EMG, a thin needle with an electrode is inserted into a muscle in the leg. The electrode measures the electrical activity in the affected nerve or muscle.
If the doctor suspects an underlying condition such as cerebral palsy or autism, he or she may recommend a neurological exam or testing for developmental delays.
Treatments and drugs
If your child is toe walking out of habit, treatment isn't needed. He or she is likely to outgrow the habit. Your doctor may simply monitor your child's gait during regular office visits. If a physical problem is contributing to toe walking, treatment options may include:
If the toe walking is associated with cerebral palsy, autism or other problems, treatment focuses on the underlying condition.
Last Updated: 2012-03-22
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