Walking Backwards

Morning all,

Quick question does anyone when they’re having an ‘off’ can only walk backwards?

When I’m ‘off’ I can do stairs and walk backwards just not forward does anybody else have this or knows why it might happen?

Can’t say I have had that problem. But I do tend to go the opposite way to the way I want to go sometimes

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This isn’t unheard of – my partner went through a period where it seemed easier to walk backwards than forwards. I found it quite peculiar but if it works I guess it is OK. This syndrome eventually stopped, not sure why. Maybe a better medication regime sorted it, I’m not sure.
But stairs are not a problem, never have been, and my partner would always prefer to walk downstairs than down a gentle slope. There is a phenomenon in PD where people find it easier to walk across lines on the floor than on a plain floor or a floor with lines going in the direction they are travelling in, and perhaps stairs produce a similar effect.

I find myself walking backwards and to an extent sideways particularly when attemting to turn, and as you mentioned especially when “off”. These movements also involve very short steps.

Take care


I too find walking backwards helpful when off and prefer stairs any time not just when off, no idea why. Coming down slopes I tend to scurry getting faster and faster , steps less problematic. Less of a problem when better medicated

Your point about slopes - even gradual almost imperceptible ones - is very good and an experience I share.

Thanks, cled

I don’t take any medication as I already have dyskinesias. When I had my old walker and was frustrated at going so slowly I used to sit on it and scoot backwards – until I hit the kerb one day and went flying.

The man who walks backwards Niall Quinn Kailash Bhatia J R Soc Med 2002; 95 :273

Walking backwards in preference to forwards can be a feature of dystonia, whether primary (their patient initially had torticollis and later truncal torsion) or secondary (he was treated with neuroleptics, which may have caused superadded tardive dystonia). It is one of the many manifestations of ‘task-specificity’ that in the past caused dystonia and other movement disorders to be mislabelled psychogenic. Unfortunately this can still happen.

The list includes not only patients with dystonia but also patients with Parkinson’s disease who may be able to run up and down stairs but not walk on the flat, …The precise reasons for these disparities are not understood, but they are very strong pointers to organic extrapyramidal disease

The factors that induce or overcome freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease. Rahman S, Griffin HJ, Quinn NP, Jahanshahi M. Behav Neurol. 2008;19(3):127-36.

…certain situations, cues or strategies improve mobility in PD. Luria, and Souques, gave examples of how patients with PD could run up-stairs but seemed unable to walk on an even surface.

Purdon-Martin documented the facilitative effects of visual cues on Parkinsonian gait, noting a marked improvement, particularly in stride length, when a patient stepped across lines placed transversely at appropriate intervals on the floor. This phenomenon was considered to explain why many patients with PD are able to mount stairs better than they can walk on a level surface, with each stair acting as an external cue.


A painted staircase illusion to alleviate freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease. Janssen S, Soneji M, Nonnekes J, Bloem BR. J Neurol. 2016 Aug;263(8):1661-2.

…His FOG was resistant to 2D visual cues like transverse lines and checkerboard tiles. Interestingly, FOG rarely occurred when climbing stairs.

This observation inspired a relative—a professional product designer by background— to paint a staircase with a 3D optical illusion onto the floor of his house (video 3). FOG was markedly alleviated when the patient walked across this painted staircase illusion, with FOG instantly recurring at the end of the painting.

Because only the actual and illusionary staircases were effective strategies, we consider the role of a (subjective) third dimension crucial in this patient. Several hypotheses explain why, in some patients, 3D cues are more effective than 2D cues.

First, compared with 2D cues, 3D cues may require patients to lift their feet higher, thereby activating alternative motor programs which might be better preserved.

Second, FOG is possibly caused by an impaired ability to make a lateral weight shift onto the stance leg preceding a step by the contralateral (and now unloaded) leg . 3D cues likely trigger patients to make a larger lateral weight shift.

Third, 3D cues may provide a stronger activation of cortical visual areas than 2D cues, resulting in a stronger visual compensation for the compromised axis between the basal ganglia and supplementary motor area.


A Brazilian Football Player Still on the Pitch After 10 Years of Parkinson’s Disease with Severe Freezing of Gait T. Cardoso Vale, J. L. Pedroso, O. G.Barsottini, and AJ. Lees, Mov Disord Clin Pract. 2015 Mar; 2(1): 43–44.

… he discovered that when he threw a football onto the floor and kicked it, he could override his start hesitation. He could still participate fully in kickarounds and was able to run fluently with the football.

Thank you so much for taking the time to post all of this information, I’m taking my time to go through it.

Yes, I often find it easier to walk backwards. Don;t know why though.

Yes, walking backwards, climbing stairs, running and above all cycling make me feel like the disease has all but disappeared.
When I mentioned to a friend that stairs were easier than walking on the flat he suggested getting some modifications made to my house incorporating the design principles of MC Escher.