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Living with "Drop Foot"

October 6, 2015

Thousands of Multiple Sclerosis patients live daily with a condition called foot drop (otherwise known as “drop foot”). This weakens the muscles that lift the foot and ankle, making it frustrating for the patient trying to walk and stay active. This happens when the nerve that sends the message to the muscle to “flex” the ankle becomes damaged.

On top of that, the MS-induced tightness in the calf muscle can cause the toes to point downward, making it even harder for the patient to walk without catching their toes on the ground and tripping.

To avoid tripping, the patient has to push their body even harder. They must spare extra energy to lift their hip as if they are going up a step. When a foot drop comes about due to MS, it can occur as a new or recurring symptom during a relapse. If it occurs during a relapse only, it has potential to get better overtime.

Treatment for foot drop can make walking easier and improve mobility. Here are some treatments available:

  • Physical Therapy- The therapist will determine whether the condition is being caused by weakness or spasticity and attack it with the proper exercises to improve the patient’s muscles, gait and walking ability.
  • Assistive Devices- The therapist may recommend a brace called an ankle-foot orthosis. This brace is designed to keep the foot from dropping below 180 degrees, help the patient avoid stumbling. There are many different sizes and styles of these braces available. They might also recommend a cane or walker.
  • Electrical Stimulation- This treatment involves wearing a device near the knee that delivers an electrical current to stimulate the nerve and muscle needed to lift the front of the foot. The stimulation is timed to lift the foot during the swing phase of walking to prevent it from dropping or dragging. This treatment is not for everyone, as it only works if the nerves are in good condition. Not to mention it can be expensive.