! Background Information: What is Foot Drop? Foot drop, sometimes referred to as drop foot, is NOT a disease; it is a symptom of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical condition marked by the inability to lift the front part of the foot. Typically, foot drop affects only one foot, but can affect both feet. Depending on the cause, foot drop may be temporary or permanent. Symptoms Signs and symptoms of foot drop may include: • Frequent or increased incidence of falling or stumbling • Difficulty lifting one’s toes or the front part of the foot • Dragging the front of the foot when walking • A “slapping” of the foot on the floor with each step • Higher than normal bending of the knees and lifting of the thigh, as though one is climbing stairs • Inability to voluntarily point the toes upward and/or move the ankle from side to side • Pain, weakness or numbness in the foot or toes Causes Foot drop is caused by a weakness or paralysis of the lower leg muscles that lift the foot. The underlying causes are varied and symptoms may overlap. Causes may include: • Injury or trauma to the muscles that control the ankle and toes • Injury to the nerves in the lower back • Damage to nerves in the legs resulting from chronic disease such as diabetes • Damage or injury to nerve roots, as may result from spinal stenosis • Peripheral nerve disorders • Diseases which cause progressive muscle weakness, such as muscular dystrophy • Central nervous system disorders that affect the spinal cord or brain, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease) Foot Drop Backgrounder / page 2 Treatment Options for treating foot drop are determined by the condition or circumstances that caused the disorder. If the underlying cause can be successfully treated, foot drop may improve or disappear. If the underlying cause of foot drop has resulted in irreversible degradation of the muscles or nerves involved, the condition is most likely permanent. Even in such cases, there are a number of treatment approaches that will allow the person experiencing foot drop to regain mobility and independence. Specific treatment approaches may include: • Leg brace and shoe insert – The most common treatment is known as an ankle-‐ foot orthotic (AFO). An AFO, which is most effective when fitted by a professional orthotist, supports the foot with a leg brace that fits into the shoe. The more advanced AFOs are dynamic response orthotic braces made of carbon composite materials that enhance propulsion by transferring to the legs the motion energy produced during walking or running. • Physical therapy – Exercises tailored to the conditions and circumstances related to the individual case of foot drop strengthen the leg muscles and help preserve the range of motion in the knee and ankle. • Nerve stimulation – In some cases, especially those involving stroke or multiple sclerosis, electrical stimulation to the peroneal nerve that lifts the foot can improve foot drop. The stimulation comes from an electrical pulse produced by a small, battery-‐operated device strapped to the leg just below the knee. A dynamic response AFO is often used in conjuction with nerve stimulation treatments.
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