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Understanding Foot Drop

shot of person's feet standing in a field of white and pink flowers

Foot drop occurs when you are unable to, or find it extremely difficult to, lift the front part of your foot up. It can make your muscles feel weak or even paralyzed. Typically, foot drop does not happen by itself.

Causes of Foot Drop

Foot drop is most commonly caused by a peroneal nerve injury or lumbar radiculopathy.

Your peroneal nerve extends down your leg and controls the muscles that lift your foot up. It can become damaged through an ankle, fibula, or knee fracture or knee dislocation. Your risk of peroneal nerve damage can also increase if you often sit with your legs crossed at the knee or are on bed rest.

Lumbar radiculopathy refers to a pinched nerve in your lower back. This can occur due to spinal stenosis, bone spurs, or herniated disks.

Other causes of foot drop can include:

  • sciatica
  • multiple sclerosis
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • hip or knee surgery
  • Parkinson's disease
  • stroke
  • tumors or cysts

How do I know if I have foot drop?

    A psychical exam is the only way to diagnose foot drop. An x-ray or CT scan can assist to pinpoint the problem. You may also take an MRI so it can highlight anything that may be pushing against the nerve.

    Am I more likely to develop foot drop due to my age?

    Foot drop can occur at any age. You are not more or less likely to get foot drop based on your age.

    Is there treatment for foot drop?

    Treatments would depend on your underlying cause of foot drop. Some causes can not be treated while some can be cured with treatment and will resolve the condition over time. Some options for treatment are braces or a splint that will hold your foot in a normal position. Physical therapy can also help strengthen the muscle in your legs and feet and improve your gait. More serious cases may need surgery.

    The earlier you reach out for treatment regarding foot drop, the better recovery time will be.

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