Festination is an alteration in gait pattern characterized by a quickening and shortening of normal strides. This phenomenon is most commonly observed in patients with Parkinson's disease and is sometimes known as Parkinsonian gait in a reference to this. Festination can be disruptive for a patient and may interfere with the ability to work, exercise, and engage in daily activities. It is also a noticeable sign of Parkinson's disease that can attract unwanted attention.
This change in gait is the result of hypertonicity in the muscles, where there is too much tension in the muscles and the patient has trouble controlling them as a result. The patient will have difficulty initiating muscle movements, such as those needed to start walking, and it is also hard to slow down and stop. In a patient with a festinating gait pattern, the gait can take a hopping or shuffling form and the patient has no control over it.
The term “festination” comes from a Latin word meaning “too hurry,” an apt description of the way people look like they are hurrying to a destination because of their quickened strides. Festination is a very inefficient gait, however, and it can be tiring for the patient. The jerky short steps can also make the patient's underlying neurological condition very obvious, along with the shaky movements seen in many people with Parkinson's, and this can be undesirable for the patient.
Treating the medical problem that is causing the hypertonicity and gait changes can help with a festinating gait pattern. While it is not possible to cure Parkinson's disease and many other causes of hypertonicity that lead to festination, there are medications that can be taken to treat specific symptoms and make the patient more physically comfortable. These treatment options can be discussed with a physician. Physical therapy can also be beneficial for the patient. In addition to helping patients manage physical symptoms, physical therapy can help patients prepare for the worsening of symptoms.
If someone rapidly develops a change in gait and there is no known cause, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Gait changes can be a sign of neurological disorders, as well as muscle and joint injuries. A doctor can conduct a patient interview, examine the patient, and recommend some medical tests to learn more about what is happening inside the body. The more quickly a cause is identified and treated, the better the prognosis for the patient.