The drop foot or foot drop as the condition is known occurs when some muscles of the foot are paralyzed. The muscle paralysis can occur in the muscles that cause the upward foot movement. The main muscle that is paralyzed is the Tibialis anterior. The nerve damage to the lateral popliteal or the peroneal nerve can cause the muscle paralysis too.

Common causes of foot drop

Spinal injuries can lead to complete paralysis of all the muscles of the leg. This paralysis can cause the Tibialis anterior to be paralyzed too. The presence of tumor in the peripheral nerve can lead to this condition. Damage to the nerve in any other disease condition can also lead to drop foot. There are also other diseases like diabetes and even cerebral palsy.

Muscular dystrophy, Multiple sclerosis and even Parkinsons disease can lead to foot drop. Special mention has to be made that Leprosy is one of the common conditions where Foot drop can occur. The intake of certain drugs can cause toxicity and this too can cause the nerve damage leading to this problem.

Gait in a person with Foot drop

A person who is suffering from drop foot cannot lift the ankle upwards. Inability to lift the foot while walking can cause changes in the way the person walks. This kind of gait pattern is called as steppage gait. There are other names for such a gait and they are foot drop gait, high stepping gait and toe heel gait.

Diagnosis of Foot drop

The diagnosis of foot drop is very easy and simple. Just observing the gait of the individual can help. The person will walk with a high stepping gait. The foot will not move up when the person is walking. More sophisticated methods of diagnosing the cause of the condition are present. These include MRI and EMG.

Treatment for foot drop

There are different treatment approaches to the condition. If the foot drop and the muscle paralysis were caused because of damage to the peripheral nerves, then a course of steroids are given to the patient. Steroids can help the nerve and the muscle to recover, along with Physiotherapy. The Physical therapy treatment for Foot drop includes those like exercises for the paralyzed muscle.

Orthotic appliances are used to prevent the foot from being in the dropped position. Orthotic appliances keep the foot in the neutral or normal position. Some of the splints that are used include the 90 degree foot drop stop splint. This is also called as a posterior slab. An orthotic device that can be used as a dynamic splint is the foot drop spring shoes. A spring is fixed to the anterior aspect of the footwear. The other end of the spring is fixed to a leather strap placed in the lower leg. This causes the foot to move up when the person walks. This reverses the gait cycle and makes it normal.

There are some conditions like Leprosy and peripheral nerve injury, where the foot drop can be corrected with tendon transfer surgeries or reconstructive surgeries. Fixation of the foot in the neutral position is also done in those who have foot drop because of a central nervous problem.

Functional Electrical Stimulation or FES is one of the methods of treating the drop foot. This is a method in which the nerves and the muscle that is paralyzed are stimulated. This activates the muscle during the walking and other times causing muscle contraction to occur. This helps in the treatment of the nerve and muscle so that they recover completely or partially, thus reversing the Drop foot.