What Causes Foot Drop?
Foot drop usually develops as a result of an injury to the peroneal nerve, also known as the common fibular nerve. This nerve branches out from your sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in your body, providing sensation to the front and sides of your legs and the top of your feet. It enables the muscles in your legs that help to lift your ankle and toes upward.
When the common fibular (peroneal) nerve becomes injured, you may experience an inability to lift your foot at the ankle - a condition known as Foot Drop. This condition can be caused by an injury to your spinal cord. It can also signal an underlying neuromuscular disorder. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have all been associated with foot drop. It can also be caused be long term nerve damage from diabetes, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and Polio.
One reason it is important to have this injury thoroughly diagnosed is that it can also be a symptom of a more serious problem such as a compressed nerve or herniated disc. Foot drop usually only affects one foot but there are situations where both feet can be affected. This condition can be temporary, but in some cases, it can lead to permanent effects that causes abnormal gait and discomfort.
What are the Symptoms of Foot Drop?
There are several symptoms of foot drop. You may experience one or more of the following:
- Difficulty lifting the front part of your foot
- High stepping walk - a more exaggerated lifting of your leg when walking, as if you were climbing a stair
- Foot slapping down on the ground when walking
- Dragging part of your foot on the ground as you walk
- Numbness on the top of your foot and toes
- Pain and weakness in the affected foot
While foot drop is often associated with an underlying condition, it is important to be aware of additional factors that put you at risk. If you tend to cross your legs often, have an occupation that has you kneeling or squatting for prolonged periods of time or have a leg cast, you are at a higher risk for your peroneal nerve to be compressed.
What Treatment is Available for Foot Drop?
If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, Dr. Harvey Danciger, podiatrist in Palm Desert, CA will do a comprehensive exam including nerve testing and imaging such as an X-ray or MRI to confirm the causes for your symptoms. The treatment will depend on the severity of your injury, but may include one or more of the following options:
- Physical therapy
- Electrical nerve stimulation
- Custom Orthotic inserts
- Surgery which may involve nerve grafting or nerve transfer or decompression
What can I do at home to avoid injury?
Having foot drop may increase your risk of falling or tripping so it will be important to “proof” your home accordingly. Keep any loose cords out of the way, avoid using throw rugs, de-clutter your floors and make sure hallways and stairs are well lit.
Dr. Harvey Danciger is able to provide expert care for all conditions of the foot and ankle. There is no reason to continue living with any amount of pain in your feet and ankles. If you believe that you may have foot drop, it is essential to seek treatment and proper care. Set up an appointment today with Dr. Danciger by filling out an appointment request with our podiatric office or calling our Palm Desert office at (760) 568-0108.