Foot drop is caused by a weakness/inability to activate the muscles on the anterior portion of an individual’s lower limb, especially the Tibialis Anterior muscles. The condition causes a weakness in the dorsiflexors of the foot which clear our foot off the ground when walking or running (i.e. pull our toes towards our shin), putting sufferers at a much higher risk of falls and injuries. Drop foot also regular causes patients to present with an abnormal gait, most commonly a high steppage gait, where the hip and knee are flexed excessively to compensate for the lack of foot clearance at the ankle joint. Foot drop is typical of neurological causes such as:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Stroke – Peroneal Neuropathy at the neck of the fibula
- Transverse Myelitis
- Anterior Horn Cell Disease
There are a number of treatment modalities for foot drop including rehabilitation and activation exercises, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, and in extreme cases ankle-foot orthosis (AFOs) and braces. In regards to exercise I believe there are 4 main areas that should be covered:
- Dorsiflexor Strengthening: This should be the primary aim of any drop foot exercise program. By strengthening and improving muscular activation in a patient’s dorsiflexors, especially the Tibialis Anterior, we can improve foot clearance during gait and activities of daily living.
- Balance Exercises: As mentioned earlier Foot Drop puts individuals at a much higher risk of falls and injury, therefore, improving static and dynamic balance is even more crucial than in other populations.
- Calf Mobility/Flexibility: Due to the ankle being almost permanently in a state of plantarflexion the muscle that performs this movement are consistently in a shortened position leading to muscle stiffness. By performing some stretches and myofascial releases we can not only reduce tightness in the calf muscle (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) but also potentially increase active and passive dorsiflexion range of motion.
- Lower Back Exercises: Is your foot drop caused by sciatica? Well, what better way to fix it than address the root of the problem. In this case, exercises typically used to treat lower back pathologies and sciatic neuropathy can also be effective of foot drop.
If you or anyone you know experiences foot drop or symptoms, why not book in for an initial consultation or give us a call to find out how Optimum Health Solutions can help you.