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What Is Foot Drop?

Foot Drop is a gait abnormality characterized by muscle weakness or nerve damage that causes paralysis of the lower anterior of the foot. Foot Drop can make it difficult to lift the front part of the foot—an action required for taking a basic step. With Foot Drop, the foot hangs loose with the toes pointing down, which can cause the foot to drag when attempting to walk normally.

For some, Foot Drop may lead to an abnormal high-step, called steppage gait. Steppage gait occurs when an individual must lift the leg higher to prevent their foot from dragging while walking.

Causes of Foot Drop

Foot Drop is a symptom, or side effect, of a larger problem or disease. Individuals diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy or Multiple Sclerosis may be affected by Foot Drop, and those who have suffered from a Stroke, Spinal Cord Injury, or Traumatic Brain Injury may also experience Foot Drop as a result of their condition.

Conditions that affect the strength of the anterior muscles of the lower leg or damage a fibular nerve, such as the sciatic nerve, can result in Foot Drop.

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Is Foot Drop Permanent?

Foot Drop can be a temporary or permanent side effect of the condition that caused the abnormal gait. The severity and permanency of Foot Drop largely depends on the extent of muscle or nerve damage or weakness.

For individuals with mild Foot Drop, difficulty walking can be alleviated through the use of walking aides such as crutches and foot braces to stabilize the foot. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to repair the damaged nerves, to fuse the foot and ankle joint, or to reroute tendons to bypass the damage provide more stability, and improve gait.

For permanent and severe cases, more technologically advanced methods, such as the WalkAide® or Bioness electronic devices, may be implemented to help patients with Foot Drop resume normal walking activities. These devices send low-level electrical pulses to the muscles and nerves, enabling them to better function and lift the foot appropriately.

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