Festinating gait is a type of gait (walking) characterized by a flexed
trunk with the legs flexed stiffly at the knees and hips. The trunk is the
part of the body below the head, not including the arms and legs. When
people walk with a festinating gait, their arms do not swing. People
with festinating gait appear to shuffle with their feet and take short and
slow steps when beginning to walk because they have difficulty
initiating movements. The steps eventually become faster because the
person is trying to catch up with him/herself since his/her center of
gravity (the part where the entire weight of the body is concentrated)
has been altered. The center of gravity is usually altered because the
person cannot stay balanced. Patients with festinating gait (see
picture to the right) also have difficulty stopping their gait after starting.
Festinating gait is often seen in people with Parkinson's disease and other neurological
diseases, particularly those that impair the basal ganglia (an area located deep within the
brain that controls movement). Parkinson's disease is a type of brain disorder that leads
to serious difficulties with muscle movements. There are several ways to treat festinating
gait, which often begins with treating the underlying disease causing the gait abnormality.
In Parkinson’s disease, this would typically involve treatment with L-dopa, which is a
precursor of the chemical messenger dopamine, which is deficient in the disease. The
brain turns L-dopa into dopamine, thus increasing dopamine levels in the brain.
A more drastic medical treatment is deep brain stimulation, in which
a device is implanted in the brain to send electrical stimulation to
certain parts of the brain, such as areas that control movement. A
less drastic medical treatment for festinating gait is exercise and
Other forms of treatment are behavioral, such as providing the
person with external visual cues (e.g., floor markers) and auditory
cues (e.g., sounds) to help regulate movements since the internal
regulatory cueing functions of the basal ganglia (which regulate
movements) have been compromised.
Visual cues have been shown to be much more effective than auditory cues. Due to its close association
with Parkinson’s disease, festinating gait is also known as Parkinsonian gait. Festinating comes from the
Latin word “festinates” meaning “to hasten.” Gait comes from the Old Norse word "geta" or "gata,"
meaning "a way." Put the words together and you have “a way to hasten.”