Background: People with PD who exhibit freezing of gait (FOG) also exhibit poor balance compared to those who do not freeze. However, balance is a broad construct that can be subdivided into subdomains that include dynamic balance (gait), anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) & gait initiation, postural sway in stance, and automatic postural responses (e.g., reactive stepping). Few studies have provided a robust investigation on how each of these domains is impacted by FOG, and no studies have compared balance across groups while rigorously controlling for disease severity.
Methods: Structural equation modeling was used to evaluate the relationships between FOG and balance domains constructed as latent variables and controlling for disease severity. Domains included: dynamic balance (gait), APAs, postural sway, and reactive stepping. Models were run relating domains to both the presence and severity of FOG.
Results: Latent variables reflecting domains of Gait and APAs, but not postural sway or reactive stepping, were significantly related to the severity of FOG. Models for presence of FOG showed the same results, as Gait and APAs, but not postural sway or reactive stepping, were related to presence of FOG.
Conclusion: These results are consistent with hypotheses that balance deficits in people with PD who freeze are most pronounced in gait and anticipatory postural adjustments. Reactive stepping and postural sway domains are less effected in PD patients who freeze compared to those who do not. These findings suggest that rehabilitative strategies focused on gait and APAs may be most effective for people with PD who freeze.