Test for ataxia; may be due to loss of proprioception, intoxication, muscle weakness, spasticity, or cerebellar disease.
Performing the Test
Walk normally across room
Observe posture, balance, swinging of arms and movements of legs
Tandem walking (heel-to-toe) in a straight line
Observe for balance deficits
Walk on their toes and then heels
Observe for muscle weakness and balance deficits
Hop in place on each foot and do shallow knee bend with each leg
Observe for strength and balance deficits
Alternatively, have patient rise from a sitting position without arm support and step up onto a sturdy stool
Note: Some patients with arthritis, spinal cord compression, psychiatric concerns, etc. may not be able to perform this.
With gait ataxia patient's gait is wide based, unsteady, and irregular while truncal ataxia affects proximal musculature and patients can't sit or stand without falling-caused by midline damage to cerebellar vermis
Bickley, Lynn S. Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: 2003.