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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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What causes involuntary acceleration of the gait in an elderly person?

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Dr. Dariush Saghafi

Neurologist

Practicing since :1988

Answered : 1629 Questions

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Posted on Tue, 24 Jul 2018 in Brain and Spine
Question: I was walking through a parking lot to my car. Without wanting to, I started to run. I couldn't stop myself and finally fell down. Luckily, nothing broken but want to know what happened to me that I couldn't stop. I am an otherwise healthy lady, 81 years old.
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Answered by Dr. Dariush Saghafi 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Phenomenon called "FESTINATION of Gait"

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for your question and I'm sure that was an unusual experience for you.

What you describe is called FESTINATION and it is a type of gait where a person begins walking normally but then, starts going faster and faster without being able to control themselves. Sometimes the person will fall forward and hurt themselves. Also, it is hard for someone who is festinating to actually stop themselves when they want to and sometimes that can lead to them running into an object. This involuntary acceleration of the gait also means that when the person is walking the steps have to become shorter and shorter which occurs as a result of the person's torso or body getting out in front of them more and more as they continue to take steps.

The combination then, of the forward leaning and displaced center of gravity of the body over the ground means that the hips and legs begin to "trail" or leave the body behind. The only compensatory adjustment that can be made is for the feet to "hurry up" and get the legs back underneath the hips (where they belong) so the person can be perfectly upright once again.

However, this becomes a difficult proposition to realize unless the distance is rather short and the person is able to guide themselves with something such as an ambulatory device, walker, etc.

Classically, the context of a FESTINATING GAIT is mostly associated with what we call a PARKINSONIAN GAIT disturbance. Although this is seen mostly in patient's with PARKINSON'S DISEASE...it can be seen in other disorders of movement as well and therefore, my recommendation to you is that you be seen by a neurologist who can fully evaluate your physiological function and history and assess your gait by watching you in a more controlled environment. Then, a more specific diagnosis can be made.

Actually, festination can be seen in a number of other conditions where the tone of the leg muscles is increased and this is why I suggest you be evaluated by a neurologist since you may have another condition going on that should be brought to medical attention.

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Do not forget to contact me in the future at: www.bit.ly/drdariushsaghafi for additional questions, comments, or concerns having to do with this topic or others.

This query has utilized a total of 60 minutes of professional time in research, review, and synthesis for the purpose of formulating a return statement.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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