Physical therapy for toe walking: 4 ways physical therapy can help your toe-walking child

Child walking on tiptoes

Toe walking is a condition where a person’s gait cycle, or the way they walk, is atypical. People who have this condition tend to walk on the balls of their feet and their heels don’t make contact with the ground. It’s common in younger children and usually will resolve itself before a child turns 3 years old. However, it can signal that a child may need some assistance in retraining their gait. 

If your child does need some extra help retraining their gait, you should seek treatment from a qualified professional, like a pediatric physical therapist. In the instances where toe walking lasts past 3 years of age and it’s untreated, a child may experience muscle tightening, which can cause further issues down the line.

To learn more about toe walking and how physical therapy can help your toe-walking child, keep reading for more information.

What could result if toe walking is left untreated?

When toe walking doesn’t resolve itself by the time a child is around 3 years old, it can cause problems later and may be harder to correct as an adult. Some of these problems may include:

  • Painful or tight muscles in the legs.
  • Trouble squatting down.
  • Difficulty running and jumping.
  • Improper gait as an adult.

What are some of the potential causes of toe walking?

  • Sensory disorders.
  • Shorter Achilles tendon.
  • Limited ankle dorsiflexion.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Muscular disorders.
  • Spinal cord disorders.
  • Autism spectrum disorder.

In cases where the cause of toe walking is unknown, it’s usually referred to as idiopathic toe walking.

Why should you choose pediatric physical therapy to treat your child’s toe walking?

Pediatric physical therapy has been known to help correct toe walking in children. A pediatric physical therapist will assess your child’s condition and determine the possible causes of their toe walking. Then, they’ll work with you to develop a detailed and personalized plan for your child to address their toe walking in a series of movements and exercises over several sessions. They’ll monitor your child’s progress during each session and take notes to record their headway. It’s more likely than not that you’ll see improvements in your child’s toe-walking tendencies over time. It’s also likely that you’ll begin to notice some of the other benefits of pediatric physical therapy, too.

In what ways can pediatric physical therapy be an effective treatment option for toe walking?

  • Can strengthen your child’s muscles — One of the benefits that come with toe-walking treatment during pediatric physical therapy is muscle strengthening. A pediatric physical therapist will work with your child to strengthen not only their feet and ankle muscles but also the muscles in their calves and any others that have an impact on their gait.
  • Can reduce sensory dysfunction in feet — Another benefit that comes with toe-walking treatment during pediatric physical therapy is reduced sensory dysfunction in the feet. Some children dislike walking on the heels of their feet because of the texture of the ground they’re walking on. They may even dislike the feeling of their shoes or socks on their feet. Whatever the reason may be, a pediatric physical therapist can work with your child to help decrease this sensitivity.
  • Can correct walking patterns and gait cycles — Pediatric physical therapists can help your child learn correct walking patterns and gait cycles so that they’re not struggling to correct their gait as an adult.
  • Can reduce the risk of developing future walking problems — PT can also be beneficial for your child’s future health. Leaving toe walking untreated can lead to further health issues, like a few of those mentioned in the sections above. When you get help from a qualified professional, your child is better set up for future physical success.

Armor Physical Therapy pediatric PT can help treat your child’s toe walking

At Armor Physical Therapy, our pediatric physical therapists are professionally trained in knowing how to identify and treat a variety of foot-related conditions, including toe walking in children. Let us help you encourage good health and development in your child or even improve your own physical health. We know how important physical therapy can be for enhancing quality of life now and in the future.

If you’re still wondering how physical therapy can help you, please feel free to reach out to our specialists. We’d love to speak with you concerning pediatric physical therapy and how we can help correct your child’s toe-walking tendencies at our Schoolcraft and Battle Creek, Michigan, locations. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment. 

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