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What is Festination?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Esther11 — On Sep 25, 2011

Just the other day, I saw a man with a festination gait. At the time, I thought he must have some ailment. But it wasn't until I read this article that I learned it was a symptom of Parkinson Disease. He was walking to the library with an armload of books. I felt very sad for him.

I know a couple of people who suffer from Parkinson's. They don't seem to have that same gait. Maybe medicine helps to control this for some people.

By aLFredo — On Sep 24, 2011

@sunnySkys - You are more positive than me, ergo your name, which is a good thing! When I heard/saw this word I thought of the word fester, as in to decline, agitate, rot, or something very awful. So I guess this fester goes more with festination than festive, but I wish it was in relation to festive instead!

I do not know what people with Parkinson's and/or festination truly have to go through, but my heart goes out to them all.

I once had to take medicine to calm my nerves, and it was horrible because my body took months to get used to the medicine.

I would shake profusely because of the anti-anxiety medicine. It was so horrible in the first few months that I could barely eat or do normal daily rituals, if they required much strength.

For instance, I could not towel dry my hair much. My gait even became shaky and so did my breathing. I could not stand up for very long. Luckily for me, I only had to deal with these symptoms for a few months, I can not imagine having to endure those symptoms infinitely.

I am so sorry your grandmother went through this, and anyone else who has to go through Parkinson's and/or festination. It is horrible!

By JaneAir — On Sep 24, 2011

@sunnySkys - Parkinson's sounds like a horrible disease and I think this may be one of the worst symptoms. I can't imagine not being able to walk around normally and do my day to day activities. And we all know how people like to stare in public if anyone does anything slightly out of the ordinary.

I know a lot of people with Parkinson's use wheelchairs, and I think that might actually be the preferable option to dealing with festination.

By sunnySkys — On Sep 23, 2011

Festination sounds so close to the word festive, but unfortunately means something totally different. My grandmother had Parkinson's and the first time I heard the term festination I was shocked it had to do with Parkinson's.

But yes, as the article said, festination is extremely noticeable. In fact, I've heard it's actually one of the first symptoms a lot of people who have Parkinson's notice.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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