Just because you’re suffering from drop foot doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your mobility and more importantly, your independence and freedom.
What is drop?
Before we start looking at ways of improving your mobility let’s first take a quick look at the condition.
As the name suggests, drop foot (or foot drop) is where you are unable to lift your foot when walking. The consequence of this could be is that it will impact your mobility and could result in a trip or fall from not having cleared the intended obstacle. It is also worth noting that these falls are far more likely to happen in and around the home where they are invariably more obstacles in a room (take you living room with chairs, tables, rugs, lamps etc).
A fall could lead to more serious injuries, from bruises to broken bones and a failure to address the root cause of the problem will invariably lead to further problems in the future.
There are two causes of drop foot, the first resulting from an injury and the second (and more common) resulting from a neurological condition.
More information on the root causes of the condition can be seen in our post on drop foot.
How to improve your mobility
Now that we have quickly looked at the root cause of the condition and what it means to sufferers let’s take a look at the available options for patients so they can get back up and remain active.
A physiotherapist is employed to enhance your mobility by tackling the root causes of the problem through stretching and strengthening techniques.
Drop foot itself can vary in its severity, therefore a physiotherapist will work with you on a tailored programme to suit your needs and achieve your goals.
The condition is caused by a weakness in toe and ankle dorsiflexion, therefore the objective of the physio is to work on strengthening the muscles in the leg to be able to lift the foot when walking.
Exercises at home
If you have seen your physiotherapist then they will have given you a set of exercises to follow, but there are also a host of options available online which you can do in the comfort of your living room. YouTube is a great place to look for these as they are instructional videos which you can follow and most importantly can be done quickly and easily in amongst your busy schedule.
For more information take a look at one of our old blog posts entitled “the best exercises to you can do to help manage drop foot”
Electrical stimulation devices
The main purpose of these types of devices it to stimulate the relevant nerves in the foot so that they contract and don’t allow the foot to drop. The electrodes can be placed under the skin in some cases but are triggered by a senor in the person’s shoe.
This type of device is designed to mimic the natural response of the body to walking but doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s important to try different things to find the right one for you.
There are a few bracing option on the market and despite different designs they are all designed to do one thing, stop your foot from dropping.
If we look at two options:
Prolite: This is effectively a rigid ‘L’ shaped brace which sits behind your calf and under your foot. It physically stops your foot from dropping because it is supported.
Foot-Up: This is a more ‘hidden’ type of brace and involves connecting your foot to your ankle using and is available in both a shoe and shoeless version, as you don’t always wear shoes in the house but still needing the added support.
The best brace is the one which is best for you.
Most people try different ones before finding something which works for them. What they do however is improve your mobility and allow you to remain active, offering an element of support in between your exercise / physiotherapy sessions.
Your potential to fully recover will depend on the root cause of the condition, but your doctor and physiotherapist will normally be able to discuss attainable goals with you.
What is important is to remain positive and keep working towards your goal as drop foot shouldn’t stop you from remaining active and enjoying life.