Foot Drop

What are the Muscles that are Involved When it Comes to Foot Drop?

Drop foot occurs when paralysis affecting dorsal extensor muscle of the toes and the foot which is known as tibialis anterior extensor/ digitorum longus also hallicis longus respectively. These extensors are innervated within the deep peroneal nerve.

Where is the Peroneal Nerve Located?

Peroneal nerve branches from sciatic nerve, which always supplies the sensation and movement to the toes, the foot and the lower part of the leg. Dysfunction of the peroneal nerve is a type of peripheral neuropathy. This is the destruction of nerves to the outside spinal cord or brain.

What Nerve is Affected in the Foot Drop?

Foot drop is an injury affecting the peripheral nerve that inhibits the patient from being able to lift the foot near the ankle. Despite the fact that drop foot is disorder affecting the neuromuscular system, it can be a sign of injuries that can be more serious. Example of such shortcomings could be herniated disk or a nerve compression.

Foot Drop

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Foot Drop?

It will be difficult for you to lift your foot when you have foot drop. When you are walking you may drag the leg. You will have to try to raise your thigh as if climbing stairs. (Steppage gait is one mechanism which you can use to counter this.) You will be forced to slap your foot on the floor as you take each step. You may feel numb on the skin covering the part of the foot.

One foot is typically affected by foot drop. The possibility of both feet being affected will depend on situation at hand.

What are the Risk Factors for Foot Drop?

Peroneal nerve is controlling the lifting of the foot. The nerve is running around the skin surface on the part of the knee that is closer to the hand. Any activity that compresses the peroneal nerve elevates the risk of having foot drop. A few examples comprise:

  • Crossing your legs. The peroneal nerve is compressed at the top part of the leg when people habitually cross their legs.
  • Kneeling for so long. Foot drop can result in activities that involve kneeling or squatting for so long. Example of such activities are laying floor tiles or picking strawberries etc...
  • If you wear a leg cast. Pressure can be exerted in the peroneal nerve by plastics casts enclosing the ankle and down below the knee.

How is Foot Drop Treated?

It will be difficult for you to lift your foot above the ground if you have foot drop. It will be more risky for you to fall due to the fact that there will be a tendency of scuffing your toes on the floor. Lifting your foot higher than the usual pace is advisable when you are walking.

The cause of the foot drop will determine the recovery period. In some unfortunate instances the condition remains permanently.

The measures that can be taken include:

  • Ankle foot orthosis can be worn; this will be holding your foot in the normal position.
  • Stimulating the nerves electronically. This can help with lifting the foot in certain cases.
  • Surgery. This operation entails the fusing of the foot bones or the ankle and may only be possible in long term and severe cases.

Details regarding these modes of treatment for foot drop are further discussed in detail below:

Ankle-Foot Orthosis for Treating Foot Drop

Splints (Orthosis) and Braces for Foot Drop:

This procedure known as ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO) can be of valuable use in keeping the dropped foot from touching the ground while walking. This will create normal and even gait when the muscle in motion. Splint and drop foot brace are such treatments that provide stable foot and ankle.

The foot is held at a 90 degree angle by a brace such that wit will not touch the ground. The patient will no longer trip on his toes due to the foot drop but in turn he/she will walk much easily because of the drop foot brace. A drop foot brace that is commonly known is inserted in a shoe is referred to as polypropylene.

Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Treating Foot Drop

Walking ability can be enhanced by using electrical stimulation device. Electrical stimulation device can boost your confidence when walking and will reduce the effort that you put through when you are walking caused by foot drop.

Electrodes that are self adhesive (patches) are put on your skin. One is put at the center of your muscle and the other in the place near the nerve that is supplying the muscle. There are leads that connect the electrodes to a stimulator that is battery operated. The stimulator is kept inside a pocket or worn as a belt and its size is that of a pack full of cards.

Electrical impulses are produced by the stimulator. This process shortens (contracts) the muscle that is affected. Immediately when your heel is lifted off from the ground, the sensor that your wear in your shoe triggers the stimulator and in this regard it is activated.

An orthopedic ankle and foot surgeon will assess you after your consultant or your general physician perceives that it will be beneficial for you to use electrical stimulation device.

The electrode can be implanted under your skin if you will be using it in a long term basis. The process entails you being under general anesthetic as the electrode is being implanted on the affected nerve.

It is recommended by The National Institute and Care Excellence underscore (NICE) that people with foot drop which resulted due to spinal cord or brain damage should use electrical stimulation provided that:

  • The individual is aware what it entails and agrees to it.
  • The outcome of this process to be monitored closely.

Surgical Treatment for Foot Drop

If foot drop has caused muscle paralysis that is permanent which occasion immobility, then you can opt to have a surgery.

This process involves tendon transfer from the muscle of the leg that is stronger to the affected muscle which should pull the ankle upwards.

The ankle can be stabilized by fusing it with the bone through another surgical procedure.

If you ever think about wanting to have a surgery for your foot drop then you should talk to your orthopedic foot and ankle specialist or your general physician. They will be in a position to enlighten you with the advantages and disadvantages that are involved.

Exercises to Treat Foot Drop

  1. Ankle Rotation Exercise for Foot Drop

    Sit straight up while you support your back with a chair and one leg raised in the air. Bend your foot to the furthest position (close to your body) that you can possibly do and hold it for a couple of seconds. You should be able to do this six times on both your legs. Full ankle rotation can also be done anticlockwise and clockwise six consecutive times.

  2. Toe to Heel Rock Exercise for Foot Drop

    You will have to lean on a table or on a wall after which you rise up using your toes. After holding this position for as longs as five seconds try lowering your heels and rocking back which rises up on your toes and thus the calf muscle is stretched. You should ensure that you have held this position six times daily for a span of six seconds.

  3. Toe Co-ordination Test Exercise for Foot Drop

    One of the ways to treat foot drop complication is to place marbles on the ground and the trying to pick them by using the toes. The strength and the texterity of you the small muscles in the feet will be greatly enhanced.

  4. Stretch and Strengthening Exercise for Foot Drop

    Begin by sitting on the floor and laying your legs straight while you have lifted up your heels. Try to flex your feet to make the toes to point towards the body. Do this for a period of 5 seconds. You will then curl the toes as tightly as possible after stretching your foot on the other opposite direction. You should be able to do this several times repeatedly and holding each round for 5 seconds.

What Complications are Involved in Foot Drop?

Many inabilities can cause due to an individual suffering from foot drop. A dropped foot may the following inabilities which include:

  • The foot cannot be raised at the ankle
  • The toes will be pointed upwards towards that body a condition called dorsiflexion.
  • Normal walk using the Heel-to-toe.

The Considerations of Foot Drop

Individuals with drop foot should have the following information:

  • Either legs or one can experience drop foot. Low back conditions will always affect one foot.
  • The cause and the treatment of foot drop will determine whether the condition will be permanent or temporary.
  • Diagnosis may be recommended for foot drop if you are having any difficulty when it comes to raising your heels.

What are the Changes Of Lifestyle Required for Foot Drop?

The following lifestyle changes can help you to avoid being injured due to a fall or tripping emanating from foot drop:

  • No cutter should be lying on the floor.
  • Do not use throw rugs.
  • Pavements should be free from electrical cords.
  • Stairways and rooms should have enough lighting.
  • The bottom and the top of your stairway should have fluorescent tapes.

What is the Recovery Scope for Foot Drop?

How you recover will depend on the cause of the drop foot. Many times you will not recover from foot drop until effective treatment is administered. Early and proper treatment increases the chances of full recovery. As soon as you have witnessed any symptoms go to your doctor and let him/her analyze you situation.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: October 6, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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