In this episode of the multi-award-winning Parkinson’s Life podcast, a Parkinson’s expert and a person with the condition discuss why gait impairment can “profoundly affect everyday life” – and how to manage the symptom 56-year-old David Little from Carlisle, UK, was once a firefighter – but when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005, his life changed. “I didn’t realise anything was going to be a problem,” he reflects. “Nobody ever tells you these things.” David started experiencing slowness, muscle stiffness and freezing – all indicators of gait impairment , a common symptom of Parkinson’s – and had to leave his job.

Now a volunteer for a charity that supports unpaid carers, David joined the Parkinson’s Life podcast to share his experience with Dr Martina Mancini from Italy. Martina, who is an assistant professor in the department of neurology at the Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, US, says she was struck early in her career by “the gait impairments that people with Parkinson’s may experience – and that, paired together with a willingness to help improve patients’ daily life, got me very interested in Parkinson’s research”.

The impact of gait impairment

So what causes gait impairment – and how can it affect people with Parkinson’s? “That’s a very complex question,” says Martina. “The mechanism of gait problems in Parkinson’s are still not completely understood, and studies have suggested that it is not one area in the brain causing gait problems, but multiple areas.” She notes that gait problems may worsen as the condition progresses, and that “reduction in stride length, variability in upper body movement and reduction in arm swing” can all be impacted. “Gait problems profoundly affect everyday life,” she says, “because they might cause a major burden and affect independence.” This is something that resonates with […]

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