Drop foot, commonly referred to as foot drop, is the inability or difficulty to lift the front part of the foot. This makes walking with ease challenging, as the toes tend to drag along the ground while walking.

It is not uncommon to see people with drop foot lift their knee higher than normal in order to avoid dragging their toes across the ground. They may even swing their leg to the side, forming a wide arc.

There are many known causes of drop foot, and it can happen to one or both feet at the same time, and to people of all ages.

Drop foot is typically caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles that assist in lifting the foot or feet. Treatment for this type of injury varies dependent upon the cause.

What Causes Drop Foot?

Drop foot is a symptom of an underlying problem resulting in weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot. It is important to note that drop foot is not a disease; rather it is a symptom of a greater problem. Some causes of drop foot include:

  • Nerve damage, including severing, stretching, or nicking of the nerve
  • Muscle, brain, or spinal cord trauma
  • Injury to foot or lower leg
  • Complications from surgery, including hip, knee, or leg surgery
  • Lower back issues
  • Stroke, tumor, or aneurism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Muscular disorders

Symptoms of Drop Foot

It is important to monitor your gait if you are exhibiting the signs or symptoms of drop foot. If you are exhibiting the signs of a drop foot injury, you should contact a medical professional immediately in order to discuss your possible diagnosis and treatment plan. The sooner you begin treating the injury, the more likely you are to repair any damage that has occurred.

If you are exhibiting a number of the symptoms located below, please seek medical attention as soon as possible.

  • Dragging of the toes
  • Tingling or numbness in the foot
  • Limpness
  • Pain in the foot
  • Difficulty in pointing the toes away from the body
  • Swinging of the hip or leg(s) in an exaggerated motion
  • Inability to lift the front portion of the foot
  • Muscle atrophy

How is Drop Foot Diagnosed?

Drop foot can typically be diagnosed during a physical examination with your physician. Your doctor will likely watch your gait and check a number of muscles in your legs and feet for weakness or paralysis. There are also a number of imaging tests that will help confirm a diagnosis, such as an x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan. It may be necessary to conduct an Electromyography (EMG) nerve conduction test as well.

How is Drop Foot Treated?

foot in sling

The potential treatment for drop foot will vary dependent upon the cause of the injury. Some treatment options include physical therapy, surgery, lightweight braces, or shoe inserts.

Lightweight braces are the most common treatment and they are used to provide support for the leg. In more extreme cases, physical therapy and surgery may be required. Physical therapy will help to strengthen the foot and leg muscles, and it may improve an individual’s ability to walk with ease. Using electronic devices that stimulate the leg nerves may also be an acceptable treatment plan, dependent upon the cause and effects of the drop foot injury.

Surgery may be suggested in instances where the drop foot injury is permanent or severe. Some types of surgeries may help repair damaged or decompressed nerves, while other may involve the fusion of the foot and ankle joint, or possibly even the transfer of tendons to the weakened areas. This may improve walking, gait, and stability.

What Should I do if I Develop Drop Foot?

If you have been diagnosed with a drop foot injury and you believe that the cause of the injury was due to medical negligence, contact Brown & Brothers in order to discuss your potential medical malpractice claim. Please be ready to provide your current contact information, date of injury or surgery, current condition, and any other relevant medical information. For a free consultation, fill out our consultation form or call us at the number on your screen.