Walking is a milestone all mothers look forward to. It is one milestone that heralds the end of babyhood and the beginning of the toddler phase. And what can be cuter than watching a cute baby toddling around?
But mothers will be mothers. Even when it is time to enjoy your baby’s new found freedom, you’ll find things to worry about – toe walking, for example.
Most baby’s toe walk when they are learning to cruise around holding on to furniture. But does toe walking require medical intervention? Or is it just a passing phase? Well, it can be both!
What Causes Toe Walking:
Most children tiptoe out of habit. But if your child is always toe walking, it may be something more than just a passing phase. Some of the more serious causes of toe walking include:
1. Short Achilles Tendon:
A child with a short Achilles tendon will have trouble standing flat-footed. Such kids are more likely to walk on their toes.
[ Read: Jumper’s Knee In Children ]
Many children with cerebral palsy toe walk. This is because their leg muscles are stiff and cannot stretch to their fullest.
3. Premature Birth:
Extremely premature babies often experience brain bleeds. This can damage the part of the brain that controls movement and manifest as toe walking.
Sometimes, an infection during pregnancy can cause brain damage in the baby and lead to cerebral palsy and toe walking.
[ Read: Blood Infection In Children ]
5. Periventricular Leukomalacia:
Many premature babies develop a condition called periventricular leukomalacia. Babies with this condition can also experience toe walking.
Another form of cerebral palsy called hemiplegia/hemiparesis too can cause toe walking in children.
Autistic children often walk on their toes. It is part of a plethora of symptoms that come with autism (1).
But most cases of toe walking are benign and without a cause. Most children stop this habit by age two.
[ Read: Activities For Children With Autism ]
When Should You Consult Your Doctor:
If you are worried, talking to a doctor won’t do any harm. But make an appointment as soon as possible if your baby:
- Walks on her toes most of the time
- Has stiff muscles
- Is uncoordinated
- Seems to be always stumbling
- Shows signs of delayed motor skills
- Can’t bear weight on her foot
- Loses motor skills she already had
Your doctor will check your baby for cerebral palsy and other serious causes of toe walking in kids. He may also recommend seeing a speech therapist . This is because language delay often accompanies toe walking.
Toe Walking In Children Treatment:
Once your doctor rules out any of the serious causes, you can relax. Your child will grow out of this habit sooner or later. But if you are still worried, your doctor may suggest a few treatment plans. According to experts, treatment for idiopathic toe walking (toe walking without a cause) should only be considered if the family of the child insists (2).
Some of the treatment plans your doctor may prescribe, both for idiopathic and causative toe walking, include:
1. Non-Operative Treatment Options:
Stretching, casting, orthotics, and chemodenervation with botulinum toxin are some of the non-operative treatment options available. But it should be remembered that these options offer limited success in the case of idiopathic toe walking.
In case the toe walking is a symptom of a serious disorder, a surgery might be needed. But first, your doctor will try to rectify the problem with non-operative means. If he sees no improvement in a period of 12 months, he may recommend surgery.
[ Read: Blount Disease In Children ]
Most cases of children toe walking need no treatment. It is more than likely that your child will develop a normal walking style sooner than later. But if you go ahead with these treatment options, you may see an improvement sooner. In case the toe walking is due to a cognitive or neurological disorder, you’ll have to spend more time and energy to sort the problem.
Toe walking in itself is not a cause for worry. Child toe walking becomes an issue only when it stems from an underlying health issue. The important thing is to seek medical advice as soon as you can. With early intervention, cases of cerebral palsy and autism can be made more manageable. So, don’t ignore toe walking as another quirk. Get it looked at by an expert.
No matter the diagnosis, your child needs your love and support more than anything else. So stand by your baby and hold her close – she is a blessing!
Does your child toe walk? How old is she? Does she show any other symptom? Share with us in the comments section below.
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