Test for ataxia; may be due to loss of proprioception, intoxication, muscle weakness, spasticity, or cerebellar disease.

Performing the Test

  1. Walk normally across room
    • Observe posture, balance, swinging of arms and movements of legs
  2. Tandem walking (heel-to-toe) in a straight line
    • Observe for balance deficits
  3. Walk on their toes and then heels
    • Observe for muscle weakness and balance deficits
  4. 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.
  5. 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


  1. Bickley, Lynn S. Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: 2003.