Foot Drop

What is Foot Drop?

Foot drop is a term used to describe difficulty lifting the front of the foot. If you find that you are unable to lift the front of your foot, and that you are either dragging the toe of your shoe or walking only on your heel, you likely are experiencing foot drop.

What are the common causes of Foot Drop?

There are a number of different factors that can cause foot drop.

Nerve Injury

Most often, foot drop results from problems with the nerve that control movement of the foot (peroneal nerve). This nerve can become compressed where it leaves the spinal cord due to a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. Injury to this nerve can also result from a leg injury or during surgical procedures such as hip or knee replacement. When the peroneal nerve is injured, patients may also experience pain or numbness along the shin or top of the foot.

Traumatic Injury

Patients may experience foot drop after a traumatic injury. This can result from direct injury to the nerves, muscles or tendons involved in movement of the foot.

Muscle or Nerve Disorders

Foot drop can also be caused by nervous system disorders, such as diabetic neuropathy, and some muscle disorders, which progressively weaken or deteriorate muscles, such as muscular dystrophy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Brain and spinal cord disorders

Disorders affecting the brain or spinal may also cause foot drop, including a tumor or stroke in the brain’s frontal lobe, multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

What non-surgical treatments are available for foot drop?

Conservative treatment options for this condition include braces or splits and physical therapy which can help alleviate pain and improve mobility. Another treatment option which may be beneficial is nerve stimulation, which can be done using an electric stimulation device.

What surgical treatments are offered at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction for foot drop?

Our surgeons perform surgery to get to the root of the problem causing a patient’s foot drop.  Following a physical exam, additional testing may be needed to determine the cause of foot drop in order to develop the best treatment plan. Testing may include imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scan or an MRI to rule out any soft tissue or bone abnormalities that may be causing foot drop. Nerve tests, such as an EMG are used to identify damage of the affected nerve.

If the patient’s foot drop is indeed the result of nerve problems, their foot drop treatment would likely take the form of surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve (nerve decompression surgery). If that type of surgery is not possible, nerve reconstruction, tendon transfer or alternative methods of reconstruction may be necessary to help return function. Your reconstructive surgeon will determine which surgical technique is needed in your specific case.

What are the benefits of foot drop surgery?

Foot drop surgery has a multitude of benefits, and it starts with helping the patient get back full use of their foot. It will improve their mobility, as well as alleviate any nerve pain that they may have been experiencing. This surgery improves a patient’s quality of life, both mentally and physically, allowing them to return to their normal activities without worry or fear of further injury.



More Information

Contact the Institute for Advanced Reconstruction for more information about foot drop treatment options.

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