I may be taking on a client who has Drop Foot in her right leg. I have a general understanding of what it is; however, I was wondering if you could describe it in a bit more depth. What would be the best way to help rectify this problem?
Drop Foot is a disorder that involves a person not being able to raise his or her foot at the ankle. It is a neuromuscular abnormality, meaning that the brain cannot send the signal to the muscle to do its normal job. A person with Drop Foot cannot perform dorsiflexion (pointing the toes toward the body), and he or she cannot do inversion or eversion (pointing the foot inward or outward).
Drop Foot patients have a hard time walking and usually develop Steppage Gait, which is a high stepping walk. This condition is a symptom of an underling problem and, depending on the cause, can be temporary or permanent.
Causes include spinal cord injuries, herniated discs, diabetes, tumors, strokes, lacerations, gunshot wounds, leg and back fractures, spinal abnormalities such as spondylothesis and spinal stenosis and a rupture of the tibialis anterior tendon. One other possible cause is an injury to the peroneal nerve, which lies deep in the lower spine and runs along the outside of the lower leg down to the first two toes. Some ALS, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis patients develop Drop Foot as well.
A doctor must determine the cause of Drop Foot to treat it properly. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) brace to be fitted to the patient’s shoe to stabilize the ankle and foot. Gait training is often recommended in the treatment plan. Surgical procedures can also be an option to correct the problem and include discectomy (disc removal) to decompress the spine if a herniated disc is the culprit.
Examples of exercises that can be performed are balancing on one foot, standing on an unstable surface such as a Dyna Disc or trampoline to develop proprioception and walking along a straight line drawn on the floor. Verbal cues will often be needed to guide the patient to walk properly, and he or she should always be spotted. Progression may be slow depending on the severity of the condition and any other abnormalities that are present.