Physical therapy for foot drop

Written by abaigeal quinn | 13/05/2017

Foot drop syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder that is often a symptom of another underlying condition. Sometimes called "drop foot," this disorder affects your ability to properly raise your foot, causes an inability to move the ankle. This can result in a floppy foot and usually manifests itself in an exaggerated, high-stepping gait, termed as "foot drop gait" or "steppage gait." A number of treatments are available for foot drop, such as special braces, physiotherapy and surgery.

Braces & Splints

Ankle-Foot-Orthosis (AFO) are often used to help the gait of a patient if they still have functional use of their muscles; this keeps the muscles in the ankle at a 90 degree angle to help keep the foot off the ground while walking. Polypropylene inserts are often used in the shoe to provide immobilisation of the foot ,if there is a problem with spasticity caused by stroke or neurological disorders. They may also be fitted to provide dorsiflexion assistance for mild spastic deformities, or a shoe-clasp orthosis may be fitted over the heel of a shoe. Often, gait training is used in combination with a brace or splint as part of a physiotherapy plan.

Gait Training

Gait training is used in patients who show significant gait disturbances. Gait training teaches you how to walk more safely and efficiently by incorporating strength and balance exercises to help with stability and body perception. Often gait training will employ the use of parallel bars, canes and walkers in order to ensure the safety of the patient. Assistive devices, such as a gait belt, may be used to help the patient maintain balance while training.

Exercises

A number of exercises may be advised by your physical therapist to help strengthen and stretch your foot while returning mobility to the ankle. These may include walking 20 steps on your heels, followed by 20 on your toes, making sure to incorporate the use of furniture, walls or other assistive devices to maintain balance. Another foot drop exercise is to stand with your feet apart, should-length, while raising up on your toes and holding the position for ten seconds before lowering back down to the floor. Exercises such as balancing on your heels may also be advised. These exercises are to be done more often during the physiotherapy phase (sometimes ten times per day), but may also be advised as a regular daily exercise to aid in drop foot syndrome.

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