All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for September 2003

Comparison of gait characteristics between multiple sclerosis patients with mild disability and healthy young adults

Francois A. Bethoux, MD, Tammy M. Owings, MS; Mark D. Grabiner, PhD
Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH


To compare quantitative gait parameters between multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with mild disability and healthy young adults.


Cross-sectional group comparison.

Setting: Outpatient rehabilitation clinic within a comprehensive care center for MS.


Convenience sample of patients diagnosed with definite MS and the ability to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes without support.

Healthy young adults with no gait impairment.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main Outcome Measures:

After a warm-up, subjects were asked to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes at comfortable speed (minimum, 1.0 mile/h) without holding to a handrail.

Measurements were collected using forceplates located underneath the treadmill belt.

Temporal and spatial gait parameters were quantified using a custom-designed software.

Independent variables included variability of step length, step width, and step time.


Data was analyzed for 15 patients with MS (87% women; age, 38.6+/-8.4y; median Expanded Disability Status Scale score, 2.3) and 18 healthy controls (age, 27.7+/-3.3y).

Gait was reported as normal in 60% of the patients during a recent routine clinical evaluation.

An independent t test showed significantly greater step width variability in the patients with MS (MS, 2.56+/-0.45cm; controls, 2.05+/-0.51cm; P=.006).

There was no statistically significant difference for other gait parameters.


Our analysis of a small sample of MS patients with a low level of physical disability showed significantly larger step-width variability compared with healthy young adults.

A similar finding was reported in older adults, using the same measurement technique.

Step-width variability has been associated with increased risk of falls.

This suggests that early rehabilitation may be beneficial in patients with MS.

Further longitudinal studies are warranted on larger samples to confirm this finding, to monitor changes with time, and to assess the result of rehabilitative interventions.