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What is Freezing Gait and How Can We Minimize It?

By Lisa Mills-Hutton and Logan Biccum, Physiotherapists



Freezing Gait does not mean walking outside in -40 degrees in Winnipeg!


Freezing gait is an abnormal gait/walking pattern that sometimes occurs with Parkinson’s Disease as well as other parkinsonian disorders. There can be sudden and short episodes of an inability to move the feet forward despite the intention to walk. This results in the appearance of the feet making quick small stepping movements in place. However, while the feet remain in place, the trunk and head still have forward momentum which makes falls and loss of balance common.


One of the best ways to minimize freezing gait is to…. WALK!


The research states the options below can be helpful:

🚶‍♂️Treadmill walking: set a pace and focus on large steps and large arm swings.

🥢Nordic walking poles: focus on large steps and large arm swings with poles.

🎼Tempo walking: Turn on music and walk to the tempo of the music. Or use haptic app to feel vibration on skin and walk to the pace of the tempo.

👟Walking in different environments like on trails, sidewalks and malls to help your body react to various obstacles that occur especially if done early in the diagnosis.


Some tips to try if you experience freezing gait:

·   Auditory Cues: Listening to a beat such as a metronome or counting out loud such as  “1-2-1-2-1-2”. This helps to “reset” your system and to get on a walking rhythm.

·   Visualization: Visualize taking a LARGE step or stepping over an object. Or pick a spot on the floor in which you want to step on.

·   Place tape on the floor: Put a few lines of tape on the floor in places you typically experience freezing gait. This will give you a target of something to step on when freezing occurs.


For an individualized assessment and treatment plan seek the care from your neurologist or physical therapist.


Best in Health!

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