Foot drop is characterized by a difficulty to raise the front part of your foot when walking. This condition is usually caused by numerous underlying reasons and the treatments are directed toward these factors. Here are some things you should know to better understand foot drop and get rid of it.
Foot drop can either be unilateral, affecting one foot only or bilateral, affecting both feet. Any of the following conditions may result to foot drop.
- Muscular and nerve injuries may result to foot drop. Neuropathy due to diabetes may also lead to this condition.
- Compartment Syndrome happens when there is a decrease blood supply to the lower extremities.
- Degenerative disorders, like cerebral palsy and motor neuron disorders, like polio eventually leads to foot drop.
- Central Nervous System disorders that affect the spinal cord or brain, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and stroke may all cause foot drop.
- Chemotherapy drugs used by cancer patients may produce foot drop as an adverse effect of the treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
The only sign of foot drop is the difficulty in rising one’s foot when walking. A person with foot drop may drag his feet or slam his foot down when taking a step. People with foot drop have a steppage gait. This is a type of gait where you raise your thighs when walking to be able to lift your foot, just like when you’re climbing the stairs.
You may also experience pain, weakness and numbness on the affected limb.
Underlying conditions need to be treated to manage foot drop.
- Ankle-foot orthotics is the most common method of treating foot drop. This is made of a material called polypropylene. Ankle-foot orthotics assists patients to dorsiflex their toes when walking. This device is only effective if the patient’s feet are able to do a plantigrade position. A different kind of orthotics may be prescribed for a patient with equinus deformities. This device can also improve the stability of ankles and alleviate muscle spasms in that area, especially for patients with upper motor neuron conditions.
- A shoe clasp is another type of orthotics that can be used for foot drop. This device is fixed directly to the heel of the shoe.
Exercises can help improve muscle strength and improve gait. (Learn how to fit exercise into a busy schedule)
Nerve stimulation is effective, especially when stroke is the underlying cause of foot drop. There are 2 ways to stimulate a nerve. One is by attaching an electrical stimulator below the knee and another is by implanting the stimulator in the leg. A peroneal nerve stimulation is used for hemiplegic patients. A control switch is placed in the patient’s heel. The stimulator is activated every time the patient raises his foot. This device helps the patient perform dorsiflexion when walking.
- Surgery is indicated for patients with spinal or nerve conditions. The main goal of surgery when there is nerve damage is to achieve continuity of the nerves. The surgeon could either repair or remove the injured part.
- Discectomy may help in alleviating foot drop on patients with lumbar disc herniation. This procedure will prevent ischemia in the nerve root by decompressing it during the earliest stage of compression.
- Sciatic nerve decompression is done when the foot drop occurs after a hip replacement procedure. The surgeon may also opt to just shorten the patient’s hip prosthesis.
Foot drop follows an underlying condition. It’s always wise to consult a doctor if you think you have foot drop. There is a good prognosis for foot drop if the underlying cause is trauma or nerve injury. A foot drop due to a progressive central nervous system disorder may not have a good prognosis, but with proper treatments, you’ll be able to manage this condition well.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of foot drop.