woman with therapist doing functional gait exercises

Functional Gait Disorder

CHI Health Neurological Institute at CHI Health Immanuel offers the Functional Gait Recovery Program to help those patients who qualify. This program offers a multi-specialty team approach where you will have an aggressive one or two week outpatient treatment plan that is arranged for you by our neurology, mental health, and physical therapy staff. This dedicated team will work with you one-on-one to meet your individual goals. At the end of the program you will have a final visit with your neurologist to confirm your improvement, and you will be given tools to continue your recovery once the intense phase of the program is over.

What is Functional Gait Disorder?

A functional gait or movement disorder means that there is abnormal movement of part of the body due to a malfunction in the nervous system. This type of movement is involuntary and the symptoms cannot be explained by another neurological disease or medical condition.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

People with Functional Gait Disorder may have a combination of the following problems while walking:

  • Dragging of one leg
  • Sudden knee buckling or collapse
  • Small, slow steps
  • Excessive swaying
  • Extra movements of arms and legs that disrupt balance
  • Crouching
  • Anxiety about falling

Factors that may increase your risk of Functional Gait Disorder include:

  • Having a neurological disease or disorder, such as epilepsy, migraines or a movement disorder
  • Having a mental health condition
  • Recent stress, physical or emotional trauma
  • History of physical or sexual abuse or neglect in childhood
  • Family history of functional neurologic disorder

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves a clinical assessment by a neurologist, who will examine you and may do tests to rule out other conditions that can cause difficulty walking. A mental health professional may also be included in this process.


Treatment will depend on your type of functional disorder and what signs and symptoms you are experiencing. Treatment is tailored to each patient and can include physical, occupational, and mental health therapies. The therapy approach is specifically designed for those with functional disorders and includes techniques different from the standard therapies you might have had in the past.

The Functional Gait Recovery Program is the only specially-designed program in the region for people suffering from this condition. If you or your doctor feel this program is right for you, please call our office to schedule your initial evaluation with Dr. Burnett.

Melinda Burnett, MD