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What is Foot drop?

Foot drop makes it difficult to lift your foot and toes. It is a symptom of paralysis or weakened muscles at the front of your leg. This often means a person will drag their foot on the ground and have difficulty walking. Foot drop can be thought of as a symptom of another problem, such as damaged nerves in the leg causing muscular malfunctions. It can also be an issue related to an injury in the brain or spine. Sometimes foot drop occurs because of a neurological condition, for example Parkinson’s disease or MS. Usually only one foot is affected, but some conditions can cause foot drop in both feet.

Weakened muscles and foot drop

The key element in foot drop is muscle weakness. Genetic conditions such as muscular dystrophy can be the cause, along with other muscle-wasting conditions including motor neurone disease and spinal muscular atrophy.

Nerve damage related foot drop

In some cases, problems with the nerves which control the foot’s muscles are the cause of foot drop. Known as peripheral nerve damage, the issue can be associated with trapped or damaged nerves – after hip or knee surgery for instance. Diabetes is linked to foot drop, as is Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Brain and spinal problems

Conditions such as stroke, MS and cerebral palsy affect the brain and spinal cord, and these can in turn cause foot drop.

What treatments are available?

At The Rehab Physio we have a number of ways to treat and alleviate foot drop.

  • Physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles in the foot, ankle and lower leg
  • Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) – small targeted electrical pulses which stimulate the nerves to activate the affected muscles
  • Orthoses – expertly assessed and fitted supports

The Rehab Physio is particularly adept in using FES. This stimulates the nerves which control the lifting muscles of the foot. It often helps to reduce trips and falls, and in some cases FES helps the body to ‘re-learn’ how to lift the foot, so the stimulator is no longer required for walking. FES is acknowledged by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a safe and effective treatment for foot drop.