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Understanding Drop Foot

For such a complex condition, drop foot has such a simple name. But anyone with drop foot knows that living with it and managing its symptoms is far from an easy task. The good news: There are a number of ways to alleviate the side effects and regain a sense of normalcy. 

Our team of experienced doctors at US Neuropathy Centers specializes in conditions like drop foot, and we’re able to provide you with the treatment plan that works best for you. 

A closer look at your foot

Your foot is a rather intricate part of your body. You have a variety of bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues all coming together to support your body weight and propel you forward. 

Because your foot is such a complicated structure that bears the brunt of the work, there are lots of things that can go wrong. 

When the muscles and nerves that help your foot perform its most basic task are damaged or irritated, you experience the awkward and often painful symptoms of drop foot. 

The basics of drop foot

Drop foot refers to difficulty lifting the front part of your foot. This makes it especially difficult to walk. 

You might find yourself lifting your leg as if going up stairs to help your foot clear the ground, dragging your toes as you walk, and slapping your foot on the ground awkwardly while taking a step. 

To understand the cause of drop foot, you have to dive deep into the muscles and nerves in your feet, legs, and the rest of your body. Here are some of the most common causes of drop foot:

Nerve damage

Drop foot is usually the result of nerve damage, specifically to the peroneal nerve. Your peroneal nerve branches off of your sciatic nerve, which is located in your lower back. 

The peroneal nerve runs along your lower leg and is responsible for providing sensation to the front of your leg and range of motion in your foot. Any pinching or damage to this nerve can result in drop foot. Even an injury to nerves far away in your spine can cause drop foot. 

Brain or spinal cord disorder

Certain disorders that affect your brain and spinal cord like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and strokes can cause nerve damage and result in drop foot. 

Other muscle or nerve disorders

Any disease that causes progressive muscle weakness like some form of muscular dystrophy, polio, or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease can affect the muscles around your foot and cause it to suffer. 

Certain lifestyle habits

Because drop foot is a result of muscle or nerve damage, it’s important to evaluate your habits and see if you’re putting yourself at risk for developing this condition. 

If you sit for long periods of time with your legs crossed, you can unknowingly be putting undue stress on your peroneal nerve. Similarly, kneeling or squatting can put pressure on the peroneal nerve. 

Some lower leg casts that enclose the ankle and end just below the knee can put you at risk for damaging your peroneal nerve and developing drop foot. 

Diagnosing and treating your drop foot

If you start to notice the muscle weakness, loss of mobility, and pain associated with drop foot, contact us immediately. 

You begin by meeting with one of our doctors. We conduct a series of physical exams and discuss your medical history. From there, we may order additional imaging tests to get a better look at your condition or nerve conduction tests to better evaluate the severity of your drop foot. 

After we have an understanding of the cause and degree of your drop foot, we create a treatment plan specific to you and your needs. We aim to treat you with conservative methods first, but we do have experienced surgeons who can address your drop foot with more invasive methods. 

Some of our most common drop foot treatments include:

In most cases, drop foot is temporary and can be treated and managed easily with conservative treatment. Sometimes drop foot is a permanent condition that requires constant management or surgical intervention.

The causes of drop foot are varied and complicated, but we’re equipped to treat your worst symptoms with our expert care. If you’re ready to take your first step toward recovery, call our office in Marietta, Georgia, or request an appointment using our online tool.

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