Drop Foot – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Drop foot is a medical condition wherein the person has difficulty lifting the front of his/her foot. A person suffering from this condition will drag the front of the foot while walking. It could be a neurological, muscular or anatomical problem.
Symptoms of Drop Foot
• Front part of the foot drags on the floor
• Steppage gait
• Slapping sound when the foot hits the ground
• Numbness in foot and toes
Some reasons for this condition include:
• Nerve Injury- If one of the nerves that controls the muscles used when walking is compressed, it can cause drop foot.
• Muscle Disorder – Muscle dystrophy can cause progressive muscle weakness which can cause this condition.
• Nerve Disorders – Drop foot can be caused by diseases like polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
• Brain/Spinal Cord Disorders – Disorders like ALS, multiple sclerosis or stroke can cause weakening of leg muscles and thereby cause drop foot.
To diagnose drop foot, the podiatrist will first do a physical examination by pressing on various parts of the leg and feet for reaction and numbness. You may also be asked to walk up and down to check for muscle weakness and gait. Further, imaging tests may be done which could include x-rays, ultrasound, CT scan and MRI. Nerve tests like electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies help determine the location of the damage along the affected nerve.
The treatment will depend on the severity and the cause of the condition.
Treatment for drop foot might include:
• Orthotics Like Braces or Splints – This will help support your foot and hold it down in an optimal position.
• Physical Therapy - Exercises will be given to strengthen leg muscles and increase range of motion of the knee as well as to correct gait. It will also make your foot more flexible.
• Nerve Stimulation – The nerve that has been affected will be stimulated to try and reduce the severity of the drop foot.
• Surgery- If there is severe pain or if the drop foot is affecting a person’s quality of life, surgery may be an option.
In most cases, working with a podiatrist and undergoing a combination of treatments that may include orthotics and physical therapy can help in treating drop foot.