What is causing my husband to shuffle when he walks?  

A fellow caregiver asked...

What is causing my husband to shuffle when he walks?  What can he do about it?

Expert Answer

Julie Kardachi is an occupational therapist, and Celeste Carlucci is a professional dancer and fitness expert. With more than 60 years of combined experience in the field, they created and run Fall Stop"¦MOVE STRONG, a joyful, dance- and education-based fall-prevention and strengthening program that keeps older adults active and safe at home and in their communities. They have been teaching this program since 2004, and the program DVD has been sold since 2008.

In our classes, this is a very common question and concern, especially because being a "shuffler" puts you at greater risk for falls.

When analyzing someone's gait, we see that some of the causes of shuffling are weakness in the ankles, loss of articulation in the feet and the lack of use of in the whole leg when one walks.

Here are some tips that help many of our shufflers:

When taking a step, make sure that your heel makes contact with the ground first and then the foot presses through to the toes; that the entire sole of the foot is engaged. Pick up your feet at the ankle (pointing toes up, and hitting the ground with the heel first).

Use your whole leg when you walk. Often because of weakness in the leg we only use the muscles from the knee down when walking. By lifting your feet with the quadriceps (thigh muscles), you will gain greater control and strength (as if you were marching instead of just walking â€" you may need to practice this).

It can be tough to be the spouse always reminding your partner to lift their feet up and walk heel-toe, heel-toe but a daily nudge can go a long way. Best of luck.