Climbing the stairs


Climbing the stairs is one of the many challenges people with Parkinson’s face in their daily life. In her video, Vanessa Martins, physiotherapist and member of ParkinsonNet Luxembourg, introduces some strategies and gives advice and shows how patients can learn to negotiate stairs. As people with Parkinson’s often have difficulties in coordinating automatic movements, these strategies help them to go up the stairs in a more harmonious and safe way.

“At first, patients should focus on the stairs they want to climb”, Vanessa says as she describes her approach. “Concentrating on the task at hand helps them to confidently go up the stairs.”

What seems like an easy task for healthy people can become a real challenge for people with Parkinson’s. One of the typical symptoms of the disease is bradykinesia: it means slow movements associated with a reduced amplitude. It can translate into a shuffling gait or cause patients to drag their feet. Their steps often become shorter and shorter. They may also experience a sudden “freezing” of their movements, a temporary inability to move as if the feet were glued to the floor. Additionally, the rigidity of their muscles can hamper their movements. Taken all together, it can be very difficult for people with Parkinson’s to climb the stairs.

“There are some strategies to overcome these difficulties”, explains Vanessa in her video. For instance, a conscious movement can activate brain regions which are still intact. This way, the patient can bypass the damaged areas in the brain which are impaired in Parkinson’s and stop them from being able to move. External cues such as coloured marks on the steps can further help to better focus on the individual steps and the overall activity. To avoid “freezing”, patients can also clap on their legs and count to three before the movement. It serves as a cue to start a continuous and consistent movement. “And finally, for security reasons, you should always hold the handrail in order to prevent falling”, Vanessa concludes.

This video is part of a repertoire of strategies applied by the therapists of ParkinsonNet Luxembourg to facilitate daily life of people with Parkinson’s and provide them with integrated care. Patients should discuss all exercises with their physiotherapist to adapt them to their individual needs.