08 July, 2011
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At Healthfully, we strive to deliver objective content that is accurate and up-to-date. Our team periodically reviews articles in order to ensure content quality. The sources cited below consist of evidence from peer-reviewed journals, prominent medical organizations, academic associations, and government data.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: NINDS Foot Drop Information Page
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet
- Medline Plus: Muscular Dystrophy
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If your foot slaps the ground while walking or running, you may have foot drop, which is caused by a weakness or paralysis of the muscles used to lift the front part of the foot. There are several different causes of this problem and they are usually related to one of the following: central nervous system disorder, muscle disorder or damage and nerve disorder or damage. Foot drop can be temporary; however, some causes are irreversible and may cause foot drop permanently.
The slapping of your foot on the ground is a classic symptom of foot drop. Other symptoms include the following: dragging your foot while walking, raising your thigh when you walk to prevent from tripping and difficulty lifting the front part of your foot.
Damage to the muscles or nerves that control the foot and ankle can often cause you to have difficulty lifting your foot. Damage can occur via trauma or surgery on the knee or hip which could put pressure on the nerves running from these anatomical structures. Diseases, such as diabetes and peripheral vascular disease can also cause nerve damage. Muscular dystrophy can cause foot drop because it is a group of inherited disorders that cause progressive muscle weakness. Muscles are extremely susceptible to damage secondary to a genetic deficiency of the muscle protein dystrophin.
Disorders that affect the spinal cord, such as multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can cause foot drop. Multiple sclerosis occurs when your immune system destroys myelin, an insulator surrounding the nerve, resulting in messages that travel along that nerve being slowed or blocked. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis occurs when the nerve cells that control the movement of your muscles gradually die, causing your muscles to progressively weaken and begin to waste away.
Treatment for foot drop will vary depending on its cause. Physical therapy can be used to show you muscle strengthening exercises that will also improve your foot’s range of motion. Nerve stimulation can help the effected nerve causing foot drop to stay healthy by improving the conduction of signals to your muscles. Braces and splints can help hold your foot in the proper position -- or a surgeon can permanently fuse the ankle and foot bones together to improve your gait.
Due to the fact that several different causes of foot drop exist, it is important for you to have a physician investigate your particular cause to rule out other life altering possibilities. Foot drop may be a sign of something bigger brewing and additional lab studies and imaging may be needed to get to the root of the problem.
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