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Stigma Hinders Use of Walking Aids by Patients With Parkinson Disease

November 23, 2020

Walking aids have the potential to increase functional mobility in patients with Parkinson disease, but they often are not accepted by patients because they signal dependency, according to a study published in Frontiers in Neurology. 

“The stigma associated with the use of walking aids hinders its use by patients, in early and advances stage of the disease, and interferes with neurologist’s recommendations,” researchers wrote. “Although walking aids could allow for a more active lifestyle, the fact of being associated with disability prevent them from being considered as something that may enhance perceived control of their situation.” 

The finding stemmed from a study on the concept of functional disability from the perspective of neurologists, physiotherapists, and patients with both early-stage and advanced-stage Parkinson disease. Researchers held four 90-minute focus group discussions with a total 20 participants: six early-stage patients, four advanced-stage patients, five physiotherapists, and five neurologists. 

During discussions, all participants’ spontaneous definitions of functional mobility meshed with the proposed concept: a person’s ability to move to accomplish activities of daily living at home, work, and in the community. All agreed that Parkinson disease affects functional mobility, which worsens with disease progression. 

Despite the benefit walking aids in improving functional mobility, patients and health care providers agreed that suggestions to use one are not always well received by patients. Participants did express more openness toward walking aids based on technological devices or that do not have the appearance of classic walking aids, such as Nordic sticks. 

“It is also curious that even when patients suggest the development of technological walking aids, they do not seem to want to use them to be faster or to have a more active lifestyle,” researchers wrote, “but to correct aspects that draw other's attention (posture, dyskinesias, and freezing).” 

Future bioengineering studies should investigate technological solutions for walking aids that avoid the classic look, researchers advised, and enhance functional mobility. 

Jolynn Tumolo 


Bouça-Machado R, Gonçalves N, Lousada I, et al. Patients and Health Professional's Perspective of Functional Mobility in Parkinson's Disease. Front Neurol. 2020;11:575811. Published 2020 Oct 27. doi:10.3389/fneur.2020.575811

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