Functional Aspects of Gait in Essential Tremor: A Comparison with Age-Matched Parkinson’s Disease Cases, Dystonia Cases, and Controls
Background: An understanding of the functional aspects of gait and balance has wide ramifications. Individuals with balance disorders often restrict physical activity, travel, and social commitments to avoid falling, and loss of balance confidence, itself, is a source of disability. We studied the functional aspects of gait in patients with essential tremor (ET), placing their findings within the context of two other neurological disorders (Parkinson’s disease [PD] and dystonia) and comparing them with age‐matched controls.
Methods: We administered the six‐item Activities of Balance Confidence (ABC‐6) Scale and collected data on number of falls and near‐falls, and use of walking aids in 422 participants (126 ET, 77 PD, 46 dystonia, 173 controls).
Results: Balance confidence was lowest in PD, intermediate in ET, and relatively preserved in dystonia compared with controls. This ordering reoccurred for each of the six ABC‐6 items. The number of near‐falls and falls followed a similar ordering. Use of canes, walkers, and wheelchairs was elevated in ET and even greater in PD. Several measures of balance confidence (ABC‐6 items 1, 4, 5, and 6) were lower in torticollis cases than in those with blepharospasm, although the two groups did not differ with respect to falls or use of walking aids.
Discussion: Lower balance confidence, increased falls, and greater need for walking aids are variably features of a range of movement disorder patients compared to age‐matched controls. While most marked among PD patients, these issues affected ET patients as well and, to a small degree, some patients with dystonia.