top of page
  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Are you a T-Rex Walker?

(Updated 25/07/21)

image of T-Rex
Large tail to counterbalance a large head

As buttock and thoracic muscles weaken, an accentuated slumping forward happens. To counter this forwards shift in the centre of gravity, a person will typically walk with their hands tucked behind, often with an additional counterweight such as a handbag. This way of walking reminds me of T-Rex.

The Old Age Slump
The Old Age Thoracic Slump

Walking with one's hands dangling, or behind one's back, along with its associated shuffle is not safe. The shuffler is likely to catch their toes on something, trip and fall. With their hands behind them, not at the ready, it is more likely they will fall flat on their face!

My first real job was in neurological and cardiovascular rehabilitation. Most of the patients assigned to me were recovering from brain injuries suffered from a stroke, falls, car accidents, or punches to the head. Others had been very ill such as from an infection, an accident or major surgery. A common factor with everyone, to some degree, is they had to relearn basic movements, some beginning with rolling from front to back, lifting one's head, learning how to sit up, stand and eventually walk unaided. These, by the way, are the progressive stages of development of movement for a newborn child. Recovery is very much the process of developing the neural motor patterns that a baby follows: lifting one's head, rolling, crawling, walking, then running - all in this order. If one step is missed or neglected, the latter stages are compromised, and clumsiness may be the consequence.

Anyone, including myself, who has suffered a significant health setback begins recovery after bed rest with a careful shuffle with arms by one's side. It is hoped and expected that this initial cautious shuffle eventually becomes a confident stride. However, the usual trajectory of recovery may stall at any point, mostly due to not practising the appropriate movement patterns, and the confident stride may be lost forever. The Parkinsonian Shuffle is an extreme example of this loss. In the case of Parkinson's it may not be possible to prevent the losses, but practising walking with rhythms, such as to the beat of a metronome, or the sound of a brass band beating out the tune of "Colonel Bogey", can vastly slow the loss of function.