Primary Causes of Foot Drop and What They Mean for You
If you notice that you are suddenly tripping over your own feet, it could simply be due to clumsiness, but it could be a sign of a deeper issue. Foot drop is a muscular weakness or paralysis that makes it difficult to lift the front part of the feet and toes. It is sometimes referred to as “drop foot.”
When patients think back to the first signs of foot drop, they remember dragging their toes when they walk. Patients also recall having to lift their knees higher than usual to avoid dragging their toes. Other symptoms include muscle weakness and a “tingling” feeling in the leg. Foot drop is not usually thought of as a condition in and of itself. Rather, it is a sign of an underlying issue. The issue can be a sign of the following problems:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- An injury to the common peroneal nerve, which is located in the lower leg and helps control feeling and movement in the leg
To diagnose foot drop, a doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms. The doctor might also perform imaging tests, blood tests, nerve conduction tests, and electromyography. If the doctor determines that you have foot drop, they might refer you to physical therapy, which is where the help of our skilled and compassionate team would come into play.
How Does Physical Therapy Treat Foot Drop?
If you have foot drop syndrome, your doctor might refer you to a physical therapy center like ProFysio Physical Therapy. One of the best treatments we can recommend for foot drop is an individualized stretching regimen. We will also recommend treatments that are designed to strengthen the lower limb muscles and allow you to lift your foot normally. Exercise will also help stimulate and rewire your brain, which can help you overcome foot drop if it is caused by a stroke or brain injury.
One of the treatments we can provide for drop foot is to advise the patient to sit on the floor and place a towel around the foot. After that point, we will hold onto both ends of the towel and gently pull it towards the patient. This will help stretch the muscles of the calf and foot. Nerve stimulation also helps when performed on the nerve that lifts the foot. As far as stretching exercises, common recommendations include leg flexes and toe curls.
After beginning therapy, foot drop syndrome may improve within six weeks, but it can take longer for a serious case to heal. In general, the outlook for foot drop depends on the underlying cause. If the case is severe enough, we might recommend braces or splints around the ankle and foot that fit into the shoe. This will help hold the foot in a normal position and facilitate healing. For even more serious cases, surgery might be the best treatment. This is usually reserved for persistent cases of foot drop and involves fusing the ankle or foot bones or transferring a working tendon and attached muscle to a different part of the foot. No matter what the right treatment for your foot drop might be, the team at ProFysio Physical Therapy has the knowledge and skills to execute it and help you find healing and walk freely.
To learn more about treatment methods for foot drop and other healing techniques through physical therapy, call ProFysio Physical Therapy at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online.