Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disease of neurological system that happens when the brain does not produce enough of a chemical called dopamine. When we lack enough dopamine in our brain, we can develop many physical and cognitive problems. We see this occur individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease as smaller than normal movements, including tiny handwriting, shorter, shuffling steps, quieter speech, tremor and freezing of gait. While all of these symptoms can be frustrating for someone with Parkinson’s Disease, there are some tips and tricks to help improve their quality of movement and decrease the amount of freezing that occurs.
Auditory Cues: To help improve the quality of walking and reduce the rate of freezing, using auditory cues such as music or a metronome at a pace that is reasonable to take steps to can be helpful. Then, try to walk with the beat of the metronome or music. If you are walking with someone who has Parkinson’s Disease, you can try clapping your hands or use encouraging verbal cues to help them take larger, more continuous steps.
Visual Cues: Walking over changes in surfaces, such as going from carpeting to wood floors, or walking through doorways can be difficult to navigate with Parkinson’s Disease. In these cases, placing pieces of tape on the floor to step over, or using footprint patterns on the floor, can encourage larger steps while walking across these varied surfaces. By placing the visual cues at the same intervals across the different surfaces, you are encouraging the individual’s steps to stay the same length. This will help decrease the risk of freezing or slowing while walking in these conditions.
Swaying: Freezing can be a part of living with Parkinson’s Disease. If an individual becomes stuck, the process to “un-freeze” is similar to getting a car out from being stuck in mud, where you roll forward and backward to get your tires loosened up. If you freeze with Parkinson's, STOP the movement and sway back and forth, and then try to walk again.
Using these tips can help improve the quality of movement for someone living with Parkinson’s Disease. Using these cues can become second nature to improve their ability to walk and move.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at the Smith Balance + Concussion Center!