- by Dr Gowher Yusuf
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- Oct 06 2017
Is toe walking a sign of a bigger problem in children?
(Source: Pediatrics, July 2012)
"Walking is such a notable milestone, and if it is not typical, it is often a concern for parents and physicians," says pediatrician Lee Beers, MD, who practices at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. It appears in the Journal Pediatrics. "This study certainly makes me feel more comfortable when I see toe walking in children who are otherwise developing well."
Toe walking can accompany disorders such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, but it also occurs among children who have no such underlying conditions. In such cases, children are said to be idiopathic toe walkers.
The cause is unknown, lead author Pahr Engstrom, MD, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says in an email. It could be related to nerves, muscles, a mixture of both, or another unknown factor, he says. Prior to this study, the number of children who were idiopathic toe walkers was also unknown.
The parents of more than 1,400 children participated in the study, which was conducted in Blekinge County in southeast Sweden. At their child's routine 5.5-year checkup, parents were asked questions about their child and toe walking. Nearly 5% of all young children had toe walked at some time. However, by age 5 1/2, fewer than half of them were still doing so. Toe walkers typically begin doing so when they first walk independently, though some walk normally during the first year and beyond. Former toe walkers did so for one to two years before walking normally.
The parents of more than 1,400 children participated in the study, which was conducted blekinge county southeast sweden at their child's routine 5.5-year checkup,were asked questions about child and toe walking. nearly 5% all young had walked some time,however, by age 5 1 2, fewer half them still doing so walkers typically begin so when they first walk independently, though normally during year beyond.former did for one to two years before walking normally.
Children with a diagnosed cognitive or neuropsychiatric disorder such as autism were more likely to toe walk; in the study, 41% of such children were current or past toe walkers.
What Parents Should Know?
For parents, it is important to understand that toe walking does not indicate an underlying problem for most children. Nevertheless, many parents become understandably alarmed when their child starts to toe walk. A lot of kids who toe walk are developing normally, if it's an isolated finding, it is not something to be too worried about. If there are no underlying concerns, it's just something to keep an eye on.
However, kids who spend a lot of time on their toes can develop stiffness, tightening, and pain in their Achilles tendon, which can be eased with stretching exercises. Parents can help their kids to stretch while reading or watching TV," says Beers. "That helps keep the Achilles tendon supple and stretched out.
Treatment for toe walking is seldom necessary for children ages 6 and under, unless the condition has caused a shortening of the Achilles tendon or calf muscles. If that has happened, surgery may be required.
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