One safety challenge many patients with advanced PD face is “freezing”. Freezing is the temporary, involuntary inability to move.
- For example, one’s feet may seem to stick to the floor or one may be unable to get up from a chair.
- The problem can occur at any time and some people are more prone to freezing episodes than others.
- Some freezing of gait happens mostly when patient is due for the next dose of dopaminergic medications and that phenomena called “ off” freezing.
- Usually, increase of the dopaminergic medications in order to avoid an “off” state can help alleviate the freezing of gait.
- The cause of freezing is unknown.
- Freezing creates a danger of falling because the beginning and end of a freezing episode are unpredictable.
- The unpredictability coupled with efforts by well-meaning companions to force the person to move may cause the person with Parkinson’s disease to lose balance and fall.
Facts about Falls Related to PD
• Approximately 38 percent of people with PD fall each year
• Falls in PD occur mostly when turning or changing directions and is often related to a “freezing episode”
• Not all people with PD experience freezing episodes, but those who do are at a much higher risk of falling
Many patients with freezing may notice that different tricks while walking help alleviate a freezing episode:
- Shifting the weight of the body from one leg to another
- Listening to rhythmical music and stepping with the rhythm
- Stepping over an imaginary line in front of them
- Using a mobile laser device that creates a line in front of the patient to step over.
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Medical content reviewed by: Nina Browner, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and by Fernando Pagan, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.