Difficulty to initiate walking, shuffling, freezing, festinating or slow gait. These are some of the mobility problems which people with Parkinson’s disease experience. Severe gait issues rob people of confidence walking and significantly increase the risk of falls.
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s and its symptoms cannot be fully eliminated, scientists found ways to limit some of the symptoms such as freezing of gait and shuffling. One of the most effective solutions to more confident gait are visual cues.
Sensory cues in Parkinson’s treatment are external signals which help people with diagnosis to initiate or continue movement. They can be visual, auditory or haptic. Visual cues are lines on the floor while auditory cues can be a beat or a rhythm. Haptic cues involve touching.
Researchers conducted several studies to compare and evaluate the most effective type of cueing. Results assessed the visual cues as the most effective to help with mobility issues for people living with Parkinson’s.
The principle of visual cues consist of lines on the floor. People often find it easier to climb the stairs or step over lines placed on the walking surface. The reason why visual cues work so well has not been discovered yet. However, multiple research studies and clinical testings proved its benefits.
Despite high effectiveness of visual cues in gait control, some people might respond to other cueing types better (auditory or haptic). Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease differ from one person to another, and so it is not possible to apply one approach to all of the patients affected by freezing of gait.
Everyday Use of Visual Cues
It is not an unknown method to place lines on the floor using colored tape. If you place them in very specific areas where you experience freezing episodes, they might help. Such as narrow corridors and doorways.
The tape on the floor creates a line which serves as a visual cue. It guides people, who struggle to initiate walking, where to put their foot to gain better control over their gait. However, this method is limited to indoor use and premises which belong to the person who has Parkinson’s.
- Azulay, J.Philippe., Mesure, S., Blin, O. (2006). Influence of visual cues on gait in Parkinson's disease: Contribution to attention or sensory dependence?. Journal of the neurological sciences. 248. 192-5. 10.1016/j.jns.2006.05.008.
- McCandless, P. J., Evans, B. J., Janssen, J., Selfe, J., Churchill, A., & Richards, J. (2016). Effect of three cueing devices for people with Parkinson's disease with gait initiation difficulties. Gait & posture, 44, 7–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.11.006
- Lee, S., Yoo, J., Ryu, J., Park, H., & Chung, S. (2012). The Effects of Visual and Auditory Cues on Freezing of Gait in Patients with Parkinson Disease. American Journal Of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 91(1), 2-11. doi: 10.1097/phm.0b013e31823c7507