In people with spina bifida, the nerves around the lesion in the spinal canal are damaged or improperly formed.  As a result, the damaged nerves may be unable to control the muscles properly. Many children with spina bifida may stand and walk to some extent, but the person’s ability to walk is dependent on how well the muscles in the legs are working which is usually based on where the lesion is found on the back.  The chart below outlines the estimated walking abilities at each lesion level. 


Level of Spina Bifida

Estimated Walking Ability

S2-S4 (Lowest Lesions)

Usually walk but may need shoe inserts


Usually walk with AFOs (ankle foot orthoses) or short ankle braces. May also use crutches.


Can usually walk with AFOs or KAFOs (knee ankle foot orthoses) or braces which go above the knee.


Usually prefer to use a wheelchair for long distances.  When younger may walk with braces which go above the knee or hip

T12-L1 (Highest Lesions)

Usually prefer to use a wheelchair.  When young, may walk at home or for exercise with braces which go above the hip.