If you’re experiencing Foot Drop, one of your feet cannot lift as high as the other. This usually happens after a stroke or another type of brain injury. The condition is caused when there’s weakness or paralysis in the muscles at the back of your thigh, which are responsible for lifting the toes and foot.
1. You Have Trouble Walking
If you find yourself experiencing a foot drop, you might also struggle to walk. This is because the muscles in your foot that you normally use to walk with (the posterior muscles) will become weak and unable to support your foot. Thus, you might feel like walking with your foot turned inwards. If you’ve ever had to walk with a sprained ankle, you’ll know just how hard walking can be.
When you experience foot drop, it’s due to a problem with your posterior muscles. Thus, these muscles don’t function properly and can’t support your foot. This dysfunction is due to an injury to the Posterior Fossa nerve.
2. Your Foot Is Stiff
When you want to point your toes or flex your foot up towards your knee, your foot is harder to bend. This stiffness is because certain muscles in your foot are no longer functioning properly. One of the main muscles responsible for turning your foot is the tibialis posterior muscle. When this muscle becomes weak and can no longer function properly, your foot will feel stiff and unable to bend.
3. You Feel Tingling and Numbness in Your Foot
This numbness is likely to occur at the level of your foot that you feel is numb. You may also feel tingling and numbness in your foot if you are experiencing foot drop. When the posterior muscles cannot function properly, the nerve running through your foot will become compressed. This nerve compression will result in tingling and numbness where your foot is numb.
4. You Lose Balance When Stepping
If you notice that you are experiencing a struggle to walk, you may also see that you lose balance when you step. This is because your foot is turned inwards, making it difficult to get it in the right place for walking. Thus, you may be stepping off-balance when you walk. You may also notice difficulty stepping onto a curb, staircase, or elevated surface.
5. Tightness in Your Hamstrings and Calves
You may also feel pain in these areas when trying to walk. This is because the Posterior Fossa nerve affects the muscles that control the movement of your foot. When this nerve is compressed, it can affect the muscles that control your calves and hamstrings.
How to Treat Foot Drop
You may have been diagnosed with foot drop if you have weak muscles in your lower leg. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat and manage this condition.
Exercises to Treat Foot Drop
Strengthening your leg and foot muscles will help improve strength and mobility. It is recommended that patients with foot drop perform these exercises daily:
- Raising and lowering your leg while lying on your back or sitting in a chair
- Moving your foot up and down while lying on your back or sitting in a chair
- Moving your foot in a circular motion while lying on your back or sitting in a chair
- Moving your foot in a figure-8 motion while lying on your back or sitting in a chair
Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) Brace
AFOs are rigid braces worn on the foot and ankle to stabilize and immobilize the joint. They can help treat foot drops caused by injury, nerve damage, arthritis, or amputation. You can wear a drop foot brace during physical therapy to help improve strength and flexibility. You can also wear it long-term for additional support and stability. AFOs come in different styles and sizes. Your physical therapist can help you select the best AFO for your foot drop treatment and lifestyle.
Electronic Foot Drop Stimulator
Electronic foot drop stimulators are wearable devices that use electrical pulses to strengthen ankle muscles and restore normal foot drop symptoms. They are small devices worn on the ankle and controlled by a controller. Patients can wear these stimulators during rehabilitation or long term. These devices do not require surgery and are relatively easy to use.
If you have experienced a stroke or injury, you may be experiencing symptoms of foot drop. If you’re unsure if you have a foot drop, you should visit a physical therapist to see the underlying causes. Your physical therapist can thoroughly assess your condition, perform necessary tests and provide treatment for this condition.