Foot drop, sometimes called drop foot, is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. If you have foot drop, you may drag the front of your foot on the ground when you walk.
Foot drop isn't a disease. Rather, foot drop is a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem.
Sometimes foot drop is temporary. In other cases, foot drop is permanent. If you have foot drop, you may need to wear a brace on your ankle and foot to hold your foot in a normal position.
Foot drop makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot, so it might drag on the floor when you walk. To counter this, you might raise your thigh when you walk, as if you were climbing stairs (steppage gait), to help your foot clear the floor. This odd gait might cause you to slap your foot down onto the floor with each step you take. In some cases, the skin on the top of your foot and toes may feel numb.
Foot drop typically affects only one foot. Depending on the underlying cause, however, it's possible for both feet to be affected.
When to see a doctor
Foot drop is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the front part of the foot. The underlying causes of foot drop are varied and may include:
The peroneal nerve controls the muscles that lift your foot. This nerve runs near the surface of your skin on the side of your knee closest to your hand. Activities that compress this nerve can increase your risk of foot drop. Examples include:
The peroneal nerve is on the outside of the fibula just below the knee. Pressure to the peroneal nerve, as you might experience if you sit with your legs crossed for too long, can trigger temporary ...
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or regular health care provider. Depending on the suspected cause of foot drop, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in brain and nerve disorders (neurologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you.
What you can do
For foot drop, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Foot drop is usually diagnosed during a physical exam. Your doctor will want to watch you walk and may check a number of your leg muscles for weakness. He or she may also check for numbness on your shin and on the top of your foot and toes. In some cases, additional testing is recommended.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for foot drop depends on the underlying cause. If the underlying cause is successfully treated, foot drop may improve or even disappear. If the underlying cause can't be treated, foot drop may be permanent.
Specific treatment for foot drop may include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Because foot drop can increase your risk of tripping and falling, you might want to take these precautions around your house:
Last Updated: 2011-11-10
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