Arm swing asymmetry: It can be a huge window of education into your client.

Arm swing asymmetry: It can be a huge window of education into your client, if you can get past the dumb stuff we’ve all done (and believed) for decades.
I have beaten you down with arm swing principles over the past few years, sorry about that, but, the beating will continue because it is important to know what arm swing tells you, and what it does not tell you (hint hint for all those improperly coaching arm swing changes). We did an entire tele seminar on the Stage 1 principles of of arm swing (#218) on and if you wish to take that archived lecture. Heck $19, how can you lose (see photo).  Arm swing is intimately dependent upon scapular stability, thoracic mobility, breathing, cervical spine function, pelvis stability and clearly ipsilateral and contralateral leg swing not to forget to mention spinal stability. The first signs of spine pain or instability and the counter rotation of the shoulder and pelvic girdles become more phasic, instead of their normal anti phasic nature (moving in opposite directions). This phasic nature reduces spinal shear loads.

Neurologic diseases in their early, middle and late phases can give us a clearer window into how the nervous system is tied together.
Arm swing asymmetry during gait may be a sensitive sign for early Parkinson’s disease.

Here is what this Plate et al study found :
-Arm swing amplitude as well as arm swing asymmetry varied considerably in the healthy subjects.
-Elderly subjects swung their arms more than younger participants. -Only the more demanding mental load caused a significant asymmetry
-In the patient group, asymmetry was considerably higher and even more enhanced by mental loads.
-Evaluation of arm swing asymmetry may be used as part of a test battery for early Parkinson’s disease.

Some facts you should consider:
Parkinson’s Disease will be well advanced before the first signs of motor compromise occurs. So early detection and suspicion should be acted upon early when possible. Reductions or changes in arm swing may be the first signs of neuralgic disease expression and progression. Dual tasking may bring out neurologic signs early, so talk to your clients or have them count backwards to distract the motor programs. Look for one sided arm swing impairment, and when present, be sure to examine all limbs, especially the lower limbs, for impaired function. After all, the arms are like balasts, they can help with postural stability simply by abducting or modifying their swing.  Arm swing changes can include:
– crossing over the body
– more forward sagittal swing and less posterior swing
– more posterior sagittal swing and less anterior swing
– shoulder abduction during swing (and with attributes of the prior two mentioned above)
– less swing with adduction stabilized with torso
– modified through accentuations or dampening of shoulder girdle rotation oscillations, thus less arm swing but more torso swing to protect the glenohumeral and other joints
– and others of course

Arm swing and arm swing symmetry matter. Don’t be a dunce and just train it out or tell your client to do things to change it before you identify the “why” behind it. If it were that simple Ivo and I would have long grown tails and begun eating more bananas. Or maybe we would have already moved to the islands by now. That was random wasn’t it. That’s what Jimmy Buffett said.

“Now he lives in the islands, fishes the pilin’s
And drinks his green label each day
He’s writing his memoirs and losing his hearing
But he don’t care what most people say.
Through eighty-six years of perpetual motion
If he likes you he’ll smile then he’ll say
Jimmy, some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic
But I had a good life all the way.
And he went to Paris looking for answers
To questions that bother him so.”  -Jimmy Buffett

Hope this helps, now back to that rum.
-Shawn Allen

Gait Posture. 2015 Jan;41(1):13-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.07.011. Epub 2014 Aug 8.
Normative data for arm swing asymmetry: how (a)symmetrical are we?  Plate A1, Sedunko D2, Pelykh O3, Schlick C4, Ilmberger JR5, Bötzel K6.

Yes, Virginia. Dizziness and Vertigo are costly

I had a Parkinson’s pt that came in this morning and had fatigue (more than usual) related to a recent onset of dizziness. He was trying to figure out why and It got me to thinking about the metabolic costs of disequilibrium.

A quick pub med search found me having to try multiple search terms and all I was able to turn up was a few papers on the topic. I found that surprising, considering the prevalence of fatigue complaints with dizziness and vertigo.
It makes sense to think of as proprioception is impaired (or altered), it would have a greater energy cost to get normal tasks done. I was able to turn up a few full text papers (below), and yes, the short answer is it does cost more to have impairment. 

Gait Posture. 2015 Feb;41(2):646-51. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.01.015. Epub 2015 Jan 24.Metabolic cost of lateral stabilization during walking in people with incomplete spinal cord injury.Matsubara JH1, Wu M2, Gordon KE3.

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Nov;94(11):2255-61. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2013.04.022. Epub 2013 May 20.Effect of balance support on the energy cost of walking after stroke.Ijmker T1, Houdijk H, Lamoth CJ, Jarbandhan AV, Rijntjes D, Beek PJ, van der Woude LH.

A Wobble in the System: The Gait Changes in Normopressure Hydrocephalus

Can you afford to miss this diagnosis ? 

Today, the gait changes in NPH are discussed because as with many neurologic disorders and diseases, subtle gait changes are the first signs. And, in this disorder, you have to catch the gait changes early on in order to give your client the greatest changes of full recovery.   Today we couple this blog post with a great video story of a missed case study of NPH.

Normopressure hydrocephalus (NPH) consists of the triad of :

1. gait disturbance
2. urinary incontinence
3. dementia or mental decline

In the most general terms, Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), also referred to as symptomatic hydrocephalus, is caused by a decreased absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The resultant increased intracranial pressure can cause ventriculomegaly.  In NPH patients, the pressure remains just slightly elevated, but enough to create pressure on the cortical tissues of the brain causing the symptoms above. The vagueness of this problem and its seemingly random symptoms is primarily why this disorder is often missed or misdiagnosed as dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimers disorders.

As discussed previously, many early neurological diseases and disorders softly present with early gait changes. And, as in NPH, gait changes may be the earliest symptom of the 3 mentioned earlier. One’s ability to know, observe and recognize abnormal gait patterns coupled with a good historical interview and physical exam can often tease out the earliest manifestation of NPH.

Here is what you need to know about the gait presentation in NPH:

The gait changes are often subtle and progress as NPH progresses because of the changes in the brains ventricular tissues eventually compromising the sensory-motor tracts.
Early gait changes, MILD, may show a cautious gait. Steps length and stride length may be slowed and shortened. The gait may begin to show signs of being deliberate and calculated, less fluid and free. The appearance of unsteadiness or balance challenges may prevail. Once simple environmental obstacles may now present as challenges, things like curbs, stairs, weaving between tables in restaurants or wide open spaces where there is nothing to grasp onto for stability. Weakness and tiredness of the legs may also be part of the complaint, although examination discloses no paresis or ataxia. (Ropper)  A walking aid such as a cane may add comfort but often appears to be rarely used.

As the gait changes progress into the more MODERATE to ADVANCED, the walking aids used often progress into quad walkers.  Wheelchairs are needed in more difficult places or when fatigue is growing factor.  As the gait challenges progress, the careful observer will note a more obvious reduction in step and stride length, a head down posture, less dual tasking engagement during gait execution, slowed walking speed, reduced foot-floor clearance, shuffling gait (keeping the feet more engaged to the ground, this can be a Parkinsonian-type gait mis-read, there will be no tremor or rigidity), searches for stable external cues (reaching for railings, a kind arm or hand, touching walls etc), widening of the feet (broad based stance), and fears of falling backward.

In the most ADVANCED gait impairments, the fear of falling can become too great. There may even be an inability to engage sit-stand-walk motor patterns and the fatigue of the limbs may be too advanced to even stand let along walk. This stage is referred to as Hydrocephalic astasia-abasia (Ropper).  

Normopressure Hydrocephalus is a serious issue if left unrecognized and untreated. Here is yet another reason why you must be familiar with this problem:

“Patients with dementia who are confined to a nursing home and may have undiagnosed NPH can possibly become independent again once treated. So far only one study was able to evaluate the prevalence of NPH, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, among residents of assisted-living facilities, showing a prevalence in 9 to 14% of the residents.” – Marmarou

One’s lack of awareness and knowledge, are one’s greatest enemies. If you don’t know something exists, because you’ve never studied or learned it, how can you be aware of it ? If you’re not spending enough time examining a client, you might be unaware of an issue even though you may be knowledgeable about the issue. One must have both awareness and knowledge. One must also be aware that compensations are the way of the body. What you see is not your client’s problem. It is their strategy to cope.

NPH must be diagnosed early on since a delay in reducing the pressure on the cortical tissues can lead to permanency of disease and dysfunction.  According to Poca there can be a wide range of successes and failures in symptom remediation, but there is clearly a time dependency on early diagnosis. Thus, clearly recognizing any early gait changes and behaviors prior to advancing incontinence and mental decline is paramount.

Bonus: here is a little bonus tidbit for my fellow neuro gait friends. 

Stolze (7) study conclusion: “The gait pattern in normal pressure hydrocephalus is clearly distinguishable from the gait of Parkinson’s disease. As well as the basal ganglia output connections, other pathways and structures most likely in the frontal lobes are responsible for the gait pattern and especially the disturbed dynamic equilibrium in normal pressure hydrocephalus. Hypokinesia and its responsiveness to external cues in both diseases are assumed to be an expression of a disturbed motor planning.”

Dr. Shawn Allen, … one of “the gait guys”

Some of the above was inspired and summarized by this great article, from the Boston Globe.  


1. Marmarou, Anthony; Young, Harold F.; Aygok, Gunes A. (1 April 2007). “Estimated incidence of normal-pressure hydrocephalus and shunt outcome in patients residing in assisted-living and extended-care facilities”. Neurosurgical FOCUS 22 (4): 1–8.

2. Ropper, A.H. & Samuels, M.A. (2009). Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology (9th edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Medical.

3. Poca, Maria A.; Mataró, Maria; Matarín, Maria Del Mar; Arikan, Fuat; Junqué, Carmen; Sahuquillo, Juan (1 May 2004). “Is the placement of shunts in patients with idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus worth the risk? Results of a study based on continuous monitoring of intracranial pressure”. Journal of Neurosurgery 100 (5): 855–866.

4. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Jan;87(1):39-45.
Objective assessment of gait in normal-pressure hydrocephalus.
Williams MA1, Thomas G, de Lateur B, Imteyaz H, Rose JG, Shore WS, Kharkar S, Rigamonti D.

5. Clin Neurophysiol. 2000 Sep;111(9):1678-86.
Gait analysis in idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus—which parameters respond to the CSF tap test?
Stolze H1, Kuhtz-Buschbeck JP, Drücke H, Jöhnk K, Diercks C, Palmié S, Mehdorn HM, Illert M, Deuschl G.

6.Rev Neurol (Paris). 2001 Nov;157(11 Pt 1):1416-9.
[Postural and locomotor evaluation of normal pressure hydrocephalus: a case report]. Mesure S1, Donnet A, Azulay JP, Pouget J, Grisoli F.

7.J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2001 Mar;70(3):289-97.
Comparative analysis of the gait disorder of normal pressure hydrocephalus and Parkinson’s disease.
Stolze H1, Kuhtz-Buschbeck JP, Drücke H, Jöhnk K, Illert M, Deuschl G.

Podcast 47: The Thigh Gap & Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

Podcast 47 is live !

Topics: Lots of cool stuff for your ears and brains today. Don’t miss this show on Allen’s Rule Part 2, ankle biosensors, Parkinson’s syndrome gait disorder, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, The Thigh Gap disorder, and the ever confusing and much debated Abductory Heel Twist in walking and in runners. Don’t miss this show !

A. Link to our server:

B. iTunes link:

C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification and more !) :

D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:   type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen,  ”Biomechanics”


* Today’s show notes:

Neuroscience piece
1. Update on Allen’s Rule blog post:
2. Could a simple ankle sensor help with parkinsons symptoms ?
3. Probiotics Boost Running Performance in Heat
5 Gait Factoid:  the foot abductory twist
6.  Note from melissa on her 9 month leg pain.
7 . National Shoe Fit Program
8 . medial tibial stress syndrome
9. from a blog reader:
The thigh-gap obsession is not new but it’s the most extreme body fixation yet