Does Foot Drop Go Away?
If pointing your toes upwards and moving your foot up on the ankle has become difficult for you, you could be suffering from foot drop. Whether the problem has developed suddenly, like following an accident, or has been worsening over time, being unable to lift your foot means you may have difficulty walking without your toes hitting the ground, which puts you at risk of tripping and falling.
Today, our podiatry team here at The Podiatrist are sharing all things foot drop and answering the common question we get: will it go away?
First thing’s first: What causes foot drop?
If you’re unable to point one or both feet up towards the sky, it means that the muscles responsible for lifting the foot up aren’t working so well or have lost their strength. There may be a number of causes for this, and they’re often related to underlying neurological conditions, meaning they affect the nerves in the feet and legs that help the muscles function. Examples include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cerebral palsy
- Peripheral neuropathy, which may occur secondary to diabetes
- Nerve compression or damage, which may occur following an accident, surgery, or even from just sitting for too long in one place
The cause may also be related directly to the muscles. This includes:
- Muscular dystrophy
- General muscle weakness after periods of immobilisation like after a lengthy recovery from surgery
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
Foot drop puts you at risk
We’ve already mentioned that when you have foot drop, you’re at risk of tripping and falling - but there are many more problems that you become vulnerable to. As you can’t naturally clear the ground, many people change the way they walk greatly to compensate and try to create a smoother and more comfortable gait. Often, this involves excessive flexion (bending) at the knees or hips, swinging the leg forwards or out around the body, and slapping the foot down onto the ground when it comes to putting the foot back down on the ground.
As your body isn’t used to your new movement patterns - nor are the muscles that you’re newly engaging for prolonged periods - you become vulnerable to developing new pains and problems from your new, and often inefficient, gait.
With foot drop, you may also have concurrent problems - such as reduced feeling in the feet. If you can’t feel what’s happening around your feet, it can be difficult to tell when an injury has occurred, or when your body is trying to warn you about a painful movement.
What’s the verdict - will foot drop get better on its own?
Depending on the underlying cause of your foot drop, the problem may be either temporary or permanent. This must be evaluated entirely on a case-by-case basis, so we can’t tell you more without understanding what has caused your foot drop, its severity, and your symptoms.
When the underlying condition is something like a stroke, where permanent damage has occurred to the brain, it is likely to be permanent. If the problem has developed following surgery or trauma but the nerves haven’t been permanently damaged - only compressed or weakened, then yes you can completely or partially recover from your foot drop - and your podiatrist can help you get there faster.
How can podiatrists help with foot drop?
Starting always with understanding the cause of the foot drop - as well as the concurrent symptoms it is having on the feet - we can help you by using:
- Braces or splints - these devices help hold your foot in the best position to optimise your mobility, improve your comfort and to reduce your risk of complications or injuries. A great example is the Ritchie brace, which is proven to help with foot drop
- Ankle-foot orthotics & custom foot orthotics - alongside helping hold your foot and ankle in a specific position, these devices are prescribed for your feet to alter the way your feet and legs function to improve your mobility. These are often used if you have concurrent problems alongside foot drop
- Physical therapy - this is designed to help strengthen the musculature associated with foot drop while improving the range of motion at the ankle joint while reducing stiffness
- Footwear - when it comes to foot drop, your shoes can hold you back if they’re too heavy, not the right fit, or don’t give you the stability and support you need. We help you select the best shoes for your feet that work symbiotically with any braces or orthotics you may be wearing
We’re here for you
Losing the ability to fully control your foot function can be difficult - and challenging when it comes to performing everyday tasks and maintaining independence. Here at The Podiatrist in Toowoomba & Darling Downs, we’re all about helping you optimise your health, so you can realise your full potential. Book your appointment with our experienced podiatry team online or by calling us on 07 4638 3022.