I was recently interviewed for an article about foot drop on AdvancedWeb.com. Foot drop is when the front of one’s foot hangs lower than it should due to a weakened or damaged nerve or muscle in the lower part of the leg. Individuals with foot drop will drag their toes along the group or will bend their knees in order to not drag their feet. In this article Danielle Bullen discusses how doctors and hospitals use exercises, as well as convectional and alternative treatments to ensure those with foot drop walk safely again.
Foot Drop Conditions
From exercise to medications to modalities, clinicians have a lot of tools at their disposal to treat foot drop. Just as its causes are many, so are the treatments. While the same approach may not work for each patient, trial and error can help doctors and physical therapists figure out the best possible outcomes.
Foot drop is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom that develops as a result of various neurological, muscular or anatomical problems. Patients who suffer have difficulty lifting the front part of their foot due to muscle weakness or paralysis. Sometimes they drag their toes along the floor as they walk.
Finding the Cause
Some of the common reasons patients present with foot drop include stroke, spinal cord injury or injury to the peroneal nerve on the outside of the fibula, below the knee. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis can also lead to foot drop. Patients who have had a total knee replacement can also present with foot drop, although that is less likely. Moshe Lewis, MD, MPH, chief of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, described one unique case where a surfing accident lacerated someone’s peroneal nerve, causing foot drop.
The Old and The New
Other than exercise, clinicians have other options to treat foot drop. “We’re seeing a blend of the old and the new,” said Dr. Moshe regarding treatment. He cited vitamin therapy, particularly B6, as helpful. Nerve medications, which are relatively new on the scene, decrease pain and improve nerve function without peripheral swelling. Topical pain medications are another new development but Dr. Moshe advised his fellow physicians to use them wisely.