A Trendelenburg gait is an abnormal walking gait resulting from a defective or weakened hip abductor. The gluteal musculature is the primary musculature that includes the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles. Weakness in these muscles causes sagging/dropping of the pelvis on the opposite side while walking. There will be a noticeable side-to-side motion if the glutes are too weak to support the body’s weight when walking. It can look as though the individual is limping or missing a step. Individuals can minimize the effects with foot orthotics, core strengthening, chiropractic, and physical therapy.
This gait often results from straining the hip abductor muscles during physical activity. Exercises specifically for the glutes done improperly are a common cause. When improper exercise form is the cause, the abnormal gait usually goes away as muscle inflammation fades. The gait can also present after total hip replacement surgery, as the procedure requires incisions in the gluteus medius muscle. This can weaken the muscle causing an abnormal gait. Weakness in these muscles can also be caused by:
The walking gait is made up of two phases:
The main symptom of Trendelenburg gait can be seen when one leg swings forward and the hip drops down and move outward. This is because the hip abductor of the other leg is too weak to support the weight. Individuals may lean back or to the side slightly when walking to maintain balance, or they may lift the foot higher off the ground with each step to avoid losing balance or tripping as the pelvis shifts unevenly.
Abnormal hip movement during a swing of one or both legs can give a doctor enough evidence to diagnose a Trendelenburg gait. A doctor will observe the individual’s walk in front and behind to get a detailed view. A doctor will also use the Trendelenburg test to diagnose the condition. The doctor will instruct the individual to lift one leg for 30 seconds. If the individual cannot keep the hips parallel with the ground while lifting, it could indicate Trendelenburg gait. X-rays of the hip will be used to identify any causes of weakness in the gluteus minimus or medius.
Treatment options will depend on the severity and cause of the gait.
Chiropractic and physical therapy can help adjust, realign, and strengthen the muscles to regain control of the Trendelenburg gait. The chiropractor or physical therapist will move the legs in various directions to help the joints become more accustomed to moving in certain directions and increase muscle strength and resistance. Exercises that can strengthen the hip abductor muscles include:
Talk with a doctor or chiropractor before beginning any new exercise routine so they can recommend specific exercises and educate on proper form.
If left untreated, moderate-to-severe cases of Trendelenburg gait can become debilitating, leading to severe complications. These include:
Trendelenburg gait is treatable with special shoes, orthotics, and exercises designed to strengthen the hip abductor muscles. Chiropractic and physical therapy can help limit the condition’s impact on the body’s health, the ability to walk, and reduce the risk of complications.
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Gilliss AC, et al. (2010). Use of osteopathic manipulative treatment to manage compensated Trendelenburg gait caused by sacroiliac somatic dysfunction.
Maricelli JW, et al. (2016). Trendelenburg-like gait, instability and altered step patterns in a mouse model for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 2i. DOI:
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Osteoarthritis.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/home/ovc-20198248
Michalopolous N, et al. (2016). A personalized monitoring and recommendation framework for kinetic dysfunctions: The Trendelenburg gait. DOI: 10.1145/3003733.3003786
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