Clinical investigations from the RACP

Investigating the patient with impaired mobility

Hugh G Dickson



In assessing patients with mobility impairment, the importance of the clinical history and physical examination cannot be overemphasised. The assessment process can be both complex and lengthy.

Key Points

  • The major investigative modalities for patients with mobility disorders are the clinical history and physical examination.
  • Mobility impairment may arise from disorders of volition, perception, strength, mechanics and coordination.
  • Gait (walking) patterns associated with specific pathological processes can be identified by any medical observer; a detailed knowledge of the components of normal gait is not necessary to do this.
  • Even when the cause of impaired mobility appears to localise to a specific anatomical structure or system, it is necessary to determine whether the problem is local or systemic.