Freezing of Gait (FOG) is a common longer-term manifestation of Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
Freezing is characterised by a sense of one’s feet sticking to the floor, making it difficult to initiate walking. Freezing can affect one or both feet and tends to occur initially as an ‘off’ medication phenomenon i.e. when medication effects are low. After many years of PD, freezing can also occur as an ‘on’ medication phenomenon.
Freezing is frustrating, debilitating, anxiety provoking and a significant cause of falls in people living with Parkinson’s Disease.
Clinicians have long recognised the benefits of using external cues to reduce freezing. Cues include lines marked on the ground or using an object to step over (such as an upside down walking stick) to assist in gait initiation. In more recent times, projection of a laser light on the ground using a handheld, belt mounted or walker mounted device, has been used by some patients living with PD to reduce or overcome FOG.
Recently, this concept has been taken a step further with a Dutch group publishing on the benefits of laser shoes on gait freezing. Effects were determined by a FOG questionnaire in a group of 21 patients with Parkinson’s disease who suffered gait freezing. Laser shoes reduced FOG severity by 18-20% and were also associated with a reduction in falls and near-falls.
This study was open label which raises the possibility that placebo effects might partially explain the results. The study only ran for three weeks, making it impossible to comment on longer term effects. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging and worthy of further investigation with larger studies and longer follow up.
Reference link to the study is here
The following link relates to an article about another study by the same group, as well as video footage of a PD patient using the laser shoes https://technicollit.com/laser-shoes-prevent-freezing-in-parkinson-patients/