Why Feet Drop

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Why feet dropEver have one of those old cars where nothing seems to work right anymore? The wipers turn on when you flick the blinker switch, the radio only gets AM stations, and no matter how hard you slam the glove compartment door, as soon as the car starts moving it flops down. That’s probably due to a faulty latch, but when your foot flops down, something very different is involved. We want to explain a few foot drop causes so you understand why your feet don’t cooperate very well.

There are basically three categories of underlying issues that could lead to drop foot. The first group involves disorders of the brain or spinal cord. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), cerebral palsy, or a stroke are examples of this type. Something happens in your brain or spinal cord that interferes with normal movements.

The second group involves muscle and nerve disorders. Inherited conditions like muscular dystrophy or illnesses like polio or ALS can cause muscle wasting that make it impossible for you to lift the foot.

The third and most common cause is nerve injury of some type, most commonly to the peroneal nerve. This tissue runs from behind the knee down along your shin and is very vulnerable to damage. This could happen during knee surgery, from a sports injury or wearing a cast, or even from sitting with your legs crossed for extended periods of time. Of course, we should also mention diabetes, because the poor circulation and inability to process sugars properly that this disease entails often leads to damaged nerves.

You could replace a broken glove compartment latch, but nerve problems are harder to fix, because you don’t grow new nerve cells. Nerve stimulation may help damaged cells regenerate themselves, but in the meantime there are conservative treatments we can use to help you function with foot drop.

Braces and ankle-foot orthoses do a lot to stabilize your ankle so the foot doesn’t drag. We can also prescribe special physical therapy exercises to strengthen muscles and helpful stretches to maintain good movement in the joints and keep your heel from getting stiff.

A final option may be surgery, either to fuse bones together or transfer a working tendon to assist in raising the foot.

Explore your options with Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, and let us help you regain better mobility. Reach us by phone at (281) 497-2850 or contact our office online to schedule your appointment.

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