Gait Disorder

Key Facts

  • The classic gait abnormality in PD is described as festinating or shuffling gait and it is characterized by small shuffling steps.
  • Freezing of gait is also very common in PD.
  • Gait abnormality is one of the most important factors affecting the quality of life of affected patients.

Changes in gait is one of the distinguishing symptoms in PD. Althought it is not common in early stages, as the disease progresses, the normal heel strike is lost and the feet tend to slide along the floor.

When evaluating gait in PD patients consider the following aspects:

  • Raising from the chair: PD patients have difficuty standing up and may need to use arms of the chair to get up. 
  • First step: PD patients may have difficulties taking the first step. 
  • Posture when walking: PD patients may get stopped - more than expected for age. Arm swing is reduced.
  • Speed: as described under bradykinesia, PD patients move slower than expected for age.
  • Stride length: shortened in PD.
  • Turning: PD patients take many steps to turn.
  • Steadiness: as described in postural instability, balance is midly impaired.
  • Gait improves with medication but in later stages, gait problems become less responsive to medication.