Foot drop is a deceptively simple name for a potentially complex and serious problem. It is defined as a substantial weakness of the ankle and toe dorsiflexion.
In this article we’re going to discuss what drop foot is, look at some of its symptoms, analyse some of the issues that cause this condition and cover some treatment methods.
Up first, let’s define what drop foot is and then hear about how Hayley overcame the problem….
Drop foot is a condition that hampers someone’s ability to lift their toes and the front of the foot due to a weakness of ankle dorsiflexion or a paralysis of the muscles. Unfortunately, the condition tends to have a very negative affect on a patient’s life as they are more prone to catching their foot and having falls, causing injury.
People who suffer from drop foot often walk with an exaggerated flexion of the leg and knee to keep the foot higher in order to avoid catching it during the swing phase.
Hayley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her late 20’s. She suffers with drop foot in both feet, often catching her toes and tripping over. She found out about functional electrical stimulation for drop foot through her physiotherapist and discovered Trulife’s WalkAide device on the internet.
In early 2017 she attended our Birmingham assessment clinic in the UK to see if WalkAide was suitable for her. It immediately improved her foot lift in both legs. In May she returned to purchase a WalkAide for each leg. She found the devices made walking easier at work, her husband noticed an improvement in her walking and her Mum started to struggle to keep up with her when shopping! Friends and colleagues also noticed an improvement in her walking. And there was a lot less wear and tear on her shoes, which weren’t being dragged along the floor anymore.
Three weeks after receiving her WalkAide’s, she learnt she was expecting her first child. Wonderful news for the family, but unfortunately pregnancy is a contra-indication for use of functional electrical stimulation, so she had to stop using her WalkAides for 9 months!
As soon as she was certain of the due date, she booked herself a review appointment at our Birmingham clinic to have her WalkAide’s reviewed and reinstated. She is now the proud mother of a gorgeous baby girl, and 10 days after the birth, she was back to using her WalkAide’s and walking much more freely.
Drop foot is not a disease but is rather a symptom of a different underlying problem and it can be either temporary or permanent. There are a number of different causes however it is most commonly caused by damage to the peroneal nerve. This can happen through sporting injuries, diabetes, hip or knee replacement surgery, spending long hours sitting or squatting, childbirth or time spent in a leg cast.
Drop foot can also be caused by muscle disorders such as muscular dystrophy, polio and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Brain or spinal cord disorders such as strokes, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy may result in cases of drop foot.
Another reason drop foot occurs – and one that does get overlooked from time to time – is pressure injuries. It is important to make sure that the correct procedures are in place to help prevent pressure injuries in the first place. Following proper procedures can greatly reduce and almost entirely eliminate pressure injures. The National Presssure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) are very active in this area and recently released a quick reference guide.
At Trulife we have designed several innovative pressurecare products that make a real difference in significantly reducing pressure injuries.
Drop foot may be extremely distressing for a patient and can also be very painful both physically and mentally. However, the good news is that there are several ways to successfully tackle the problem….
In extreme cases surgery may be required as it can correct the underlying problem. If drop foot is caused because of pinched nerve or a herniated disc it may be decided that surgical options are the best way to relieve a patient’s discomfort.
If drop foot is as result of damaged to the brain or spinal cord, then nerve stimulation is a good way of tackling the problem. This was the approach taken in Haley’s case. A device is subtly placed just under the knee that generates a mild electrical pulse whilst the patient is walking that stimulates the normal function of the nerve. This in turn causes a contraction of the muscles generating a more natural swing.
Alternatively there are a variety of excellent ankle foot orthosis products available to patients. An AFO is a brace or a splint that has been especially designed to be worn by somebody experiencing drop foot. Braces are applied on the ankle and foot to add extra support and help maintain a natural movement through the swing phase. Splints are placed inside the shoe and add the additional stability required by the patient.
Trulife is leading the way when it comes to AFO’s and our Matrix Range of products are making a real difference to patients lives.
Exercises that strengthen your leg muscles and help you maintain the range of motion in your knee and ankle might improve gait problems over time. Patients should make sure to use stretching exercises as they are particularly important to prevent the stiffness occurring in the heel of the foot.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to tackle drop foot through using WalkAide or an AFO then please get in touch with a member of our team.
Do you have a question about our products or services? Our dedicated staff is always here to help. Get in touch and we will revert to you as soon as possible. Thank you.
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