Foot drop has a variety of causes and typically only affects one foot at a time, but it is possible to have both feet affected at the same time. There are several options for treatment including surgery that can help correct the condition and make it possible to walk without dragging your foot.
Common Signs and Causes of Foot Drop
The most obvious sign of foot drop is dragging your foot while walking. You may find it difficult to lift the front part of your foot and toes. With foot drop, it is common to trip over your foot while walking. Many find it easier to lift the entire foot higher than normal when taking a step to prevent this from happening. Those with foot drop may swing their legs out to the side when walking or slap their foot to the ground when walking since it is difficult to control the movement of the foot. Another sign of foot drop is numbness along the top of your feet or toes.
Foot drop can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as trauma to the nerves that control the muscles of the legs and feet. Some conditions that can cause the problem to happen are:
- Diabetic nerve damage
- Nerve damage from hip or knee replacement surgery
- Nerve injury in the legs or lower back
- Nervous system disorder
- Muscular dystrophy
- Brain or spinal cord injury or disorder
There are certain activities that can compress or put pressure on a nerve and cause foot drop. For example, kneeling for long periods of time or crossing your legs can put pressure on the nerves on top of your leg and cause foot drop. If you had to wear a boot cast that is below the knee, this can also put pressure on the nerve and put you at risk for the problem.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
If you are dragging your foot while walking and notice signs of foot drop, consult with a podiatrist who can diagnose the problem. A podiatrist will do a physical exam to check your foot and leg muscles, then evaluate the way you walk and take steps. In addition, they may order imaging tests such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan to identify the exact location of the problem. A nerve conduction test is often done to help determine what nerve is causing the problem.
Once a diagnosis is made, your podiatrist will recommend treatment options based on your personal condition. Some cases of drop foot are temporary while others may be permanent.
Treatment options for drop foot may include:
- Brace or splint. An ankle-foot brace or a foot splint may be used to help hold your foot in proper position and to support your lower leg while walking.
- Custom orthotics. An orthotic can be worn inside the shoe to help support your foot to improve walking.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy may be recommended to help strengthen the muscles in your lower leg, ankle, and foot. Stretching along with massage may be used to help treat the problem.
- Electrical nerve stimulation. Electrical nerve stimulation can be used to help improve walking by stimulating the nerves in the legs while walking.
- Surgery. For cases that are severe, surgery may be an option. Surgeries such as joint fusion or tendon transfer can be done to correct the problem in order to regain movement. Surgery may also be done to repair a damaged nerve.
Foot drop can increase your risk for falls and tripping over objects throughout your home. You may need to modify your surroundings to make them safe and free from clutter that can pose a hazard while walking.
Contact Us Today
Contact Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry if you are experiencing signs of foot drop and need help from a skilled podiatrist. We offer a free initial consultation and can help create a treatment plan based on your personal condition and needs. To set up an appointment, fill out our convenient contact form online or call us at (301) 515-FEET.