Foot drop is a term that refers to a weakening of the muscles that allow for flexing of the ankle and toes.
This condition causes the individual to drag the front of the foot while walking because of the inability to control the foot movement. To compensate for this dragging, the patient will bend the knee to lift the foot higher than in a normal stride (high steppage gait).
(Example of patient with Foot drop shown above and the same patient walking without Footdrop with Walkex FES)
Symptoms for Foot Drop
The most common symptom of foot drop, high steppage walking pattern/gait, is often characterized by raising the thigh up in an exaggerated fashion while walking, as if climbing the stairs.
High steppage walking pattern/gait is associated with one of the following:
- Dragging of the foot and toes
- Scraping of the toes across the ground
- Uncontrolled slapping of the toes against the ground
The affected muscles are usually used to keep the foot off the ground during the swing-through portion of walking. When these are weak, they cannot keep the foot up and foot will scrape across the ground if the foot is not picked up high.
Other foot drop symptoms may include one or a combination of the following:
- An exaggerated, swinging hip motion. With foot drop, the hip may swing out in an effort to counteract the toes from catching the ground.
- Limp foot. The affected foot my flop away from the body.
- Tingling, numbness, and slight pain in the foot. These symptoms can range from a slight tingling sensation to a complete lack of feeling in the foot. This symptom can make everyday activities such as walking or driving a car difficult. This kind of foot pain may be linked to lower back pain.
- Difficulty engaging in activities requiring the use of the front of the foot. For example, climbing the stairs may become difficult with foot drop.
- Muscle atrophy in the leg. Muscle atrophy refers to a muscle decreasing in mass and weakening. As the anterior tibialis, extensor halluces longus, and the extensor digitorum longus muscles are most affected by foot drop, atrophy may occur and make it harder to exert force with the leg and foot.
- Foot drop may be experienced in one or both feet. If the foot drop is caused by a low back condition, it is typically experienced in one foot.
Specific conditions and diseases that may lead to foot drop may include:
- A lower back condition
- A stroke or tumor
- Parkinson’s disease
- Motor neuron disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Adverse reactions to drugs or alcohol
- An injury to the foot or lower leg
The above list includes the most common causes of foot drop, but other possible sources of injury also occur. For example, it is possible for the peroneal nerve to become damaged during some types of hip replacement surgery, or as part of a dislocated knee injury.
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