Foot drop is a problem that makes you unable to lift the front of your foot normally when you walk. It's called foot drop because the front of the foot drops instead of pointing up when you walk. You can have foot drop in one or both feet.
Normally, your brain, nerves, and muscles work together to help you walk. Foot drop may occur if you have a problem with your:
When you walk, you may need to bring your hip higher than normal to keep your foot from hitting the ground. When your foot does touch the ground, it may flop down toe first instead of heel first.
You may notice that you often trip. This happens because the front of your foot rubs on the ground, especially on a surface that is uneven like a ledge or carpet.
Your doctor will do a physical examination. This will include watching how you walk, checking your reflexes to see how your nerves are working, and checking for weakness in your muscles. Your doctor may order tests, including:
The treatment depends on what is causing the foot drop. If it's from pressure on a nerve near the knee or in the back, removing that pressure may make your foot drop better. This could involve removing a cast or even having surgery to repair a damaged disc or nerve.
Nerves can take weeks or months to heal. If you avoid crossing your legs or your ankles, you can help reduce pressure on the nerves that can cause foot drop.
Your doctor may prescribe a lightweight leg brace and a shoe insert. They can help keep your foot from dropping when you walk. They can help if you have a short-term problem such as pressure on a nerve or a long-term problem like a stroke. Physiotherapy and exercises also can help you walk safely.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: June 3, 2018
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Karin M. Lindholm DO - Neurology
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