Tardive Dyskinesia

Gait and Walking - Tardive Dyskinesia Symptoms

Although tardive dyskinesia is usually associated with facial tics and movements of the jaw, lips and tongue, it can also affect other parts of the body such as the torso, hips and legs. In the February 2008 issue of Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, two researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas published a report identifying three patients who had been exposed to neuroleptic drugs designed to block dopamine receptors and as a result, had developed "tardive gait."

According to the researchers, this was the first time "tardive gait" (which the researchers described as "duck-like") had actually been documented and described. Their conclusion was that the dysfunctional walk of these patients should in fact be classified as a symptom of tardive dyskinesia.

Tardive Gait and Characteristics

Dr. Ralph Ankenman of London, Ohio reports that tardive gait is usually not identified because so few patients develop this particular symptom. However, he also notes that the Madison County Community Hospital's psychiatric unit has treated more than 20 patients exhibiting tardive gait, most of whom are over the age of 50.

Identifying characteristics of tardive gait include:

  • Short, quick "stutter steps"
  • Difficulty in changing direction
  • An uncontrolled manner of sitting down
  • Falling for no apparent reason
  • Stopping when attempting to go through a door or ascend/descend a staircase

Interestingly, those suffering from tardive gait are often able to walk in a normal manner when not preoccupied with stress. Some patients with tardive gait are misdiagnosed because their symptoms closely resemble those of Parkinson's disease. Others have noted that tardive gait also resembles tendencies found among patients suffering from Huntington's disease. Such patients may flail or rotate their arms and walk with a rocking or swaying motion.

Managing The Disorder

In one German study, schizophrenia patients were placed on treadmills going at various speeds. The study found that when stride length was decreased and the speed of the treadmill was adjusted to provide a faster cadence, gaits were normalized among these patients. The conclusion was that external stimulation led to the correction of impaired walking.


  1. Ankenman MD, Ralph. "Tardive Dyskinesia : A Side Effect of Antipsychotic Medications That Can Be Understood and Treated." The Madison Doctrine. http://madisondoctrine.com/tardivis.html#tardstep Retrieved 08 April 2009.
  2. Kuo, S. and J. Janlovic. "Tardive Gait." Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, vol. 110 no. 2 (February 2008).
  3. Putzhammer, Albert, et. al. "Gait Disturbances in Patients with Schizophrenia and Adaptation to Treadmill Walking." Psychiatry and Neurosciences, vol. 59 no. 3 (June 2005).
  4. Spivack, Barney S. Evaluation and Management of Gait Disorders. (New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1995).