Foot drop is an abnormality condition in which an individual finds it difficult to lift the front part of the foot, causing it to “drag” on the ground while walking. Though, foot drop is not a disease, but a disorder that mainly affects nerves and muscles.
It is a sign of an underlying medical problem, including conditions that affect the lower part of the back. It may strike a single foot or both feet, and can vary in duration (permanent or temporary).
Causes of Foot Drop
Generally, foot drop points to an underlying condition. This can be muscle damage, anatomical problems affecting the foot, and nerve damage (neuropathy).
There are various conditions and diseases that can lead to foot drop, such as:
- A stroke or tumor
- Peroneal nerve damage
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Motor neuron disease
- Negative reactions to drugs or alcohol
- Injured foot or lower leg
- Lower back condition
Symptoms of Foot Drop
Foot drop makes it difficult to naturally rise the front part of your foot, so it is normally seen as an individual walks.
In order to avoid dragging the forefoot while walking, they will over compensate it by raising the leg from the thigh. This will look more like a “March” or stair climbing.
Because of this more exaggerated movement, there can be some discomfort to the foot caused by the increased impact as the foot comes down to make contact with the ground. It’s not uncommon to experience some numbness or tonging in the toes.
Other symptoms of foot drop include:
- difficulty in lifting the foot at the ankle
- difficulty flexing the foot upward
- unable to walk normally in heel-to-toe fashion
- Muscle atrophy in the leg
- Unable to engage in activities that involves the use of the front of the foot
There are different kinds of treatment for foot drop depending upon the cause. Some of the common treatments are listed below:
Foot drop Orthoses (braces and splints)
Orthoses stabilizes your ankle and the foot. You can use an ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO) to keep the dropped foot off the ground as you walk. This makes it much easier to walk without adjusting your manner of walking.
Physical therapy exercises can greatly help the affected muscles. This is especially necessary if the foot drop causes a significant gait disturbance. Specific physical therapy for foot drop includes gait training, which teaches you how to walk correctly.
Stimulating the nerve that lifts the foot improves foot drop and also makes it easier to walk normally.
Surgery may be advised by your podiatric surgeon in order to repair or decompress damaged nerves. This is most effective in cases of temporary foot drop.
For those cases that are permanent, a surgical procedure involving transfer of tendon attachment or fuses of the ankle joint may help an individual improve overall stability and regain a more normal way of walking.