Drop foot is a debilitating condition that involves an inability to move your foot like normal as a result of paralyzed, damaged or weakened muscles in the foot and ankle. These malfunctioning muscles cause the individual to walk with an inhibited gait, oftentimes dragging part of their foot or their toes along the ground as they walk. The condition can be temporary or permanent, but both types of patients would benefit from working with a physical therapist. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at some common treatment exercises for drop foot.
Causes Of Drop Foot
Before we dive into some treatment techniques, let’s take a closer look at some of the underlying causes of drop foot. One of the most common causes of drop foot is an injury to one of the nerves that stimulate the foot muscles to perform normally. This can occur as a result of acute damage to the foot, or due to an underlying health condition. For example, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing nerve damage in the feet as a result of difficulty managing their blood sugar levels.
Other groups who may be susceptible to drop foot include those with underlying neurological disorders, such as muscular dystrophy or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Patients who have suffered a brain or spinal cord issue, like those dealing with the fallout of a stroke or a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, may also be forced to confront drop foot and gait problems.
If you notice that you’re dragging one of your feet, part of your toes or that your shoes are simply wearing down unevenly, set up an appointment with a foot specialist or a physical therapist. They’ll be able to get to the bottom of your issue and set you up with some therapy exercises to help restore your gait.
Drop Foot Therapy Exercises
Your therapy exercises will be tailored to your individual needs and the nerve issues that you are experiencing, so your exact routine will likely be a bit different than some of the sample exercises we give below. With that said, here’s a look at some drop foot exercises that are often recommended by physical therapists for patients dealing with gait abnormalities caused by a nerve issue in the foot.
- Marble Pickups – You can take turns doing this exercise while seated or standing. Start with a marble or other small object on the floor near your foot. Use your toes to pick up the marble and drop it in a nearby bowl or cup. Repeat this exercise 15-20 times.
- Ankle Dorsiflexion – Many people dealing with drop foot struggle with getting their foot into an ankle dorsiflexion position, so you can help simulate this action and loosen up stiff muscles by maneuvering your foot to this position. Sit on the ground and use a towel to pull your toes towards your body. You can also achieve this position by sitting in a chair, crossing your affected leg over your other leg, and using your hands to pull back on the top of your foot.
- Ankle Adduction/Abduction – This is another helpful passive exercise for restoring some lateral movement in your ankle joint. Get in the same position as described above (sitting down with your affected leg crossed over your other), and gently pull your foot to each side.
- Heel Raises – Stand with your feet close to one another and flat on the ground, and you can be near a kitchen counter or table if you want extra balance support during this exercise. Gently lift your heels off the floor about 1-2 inches and hold that position for 10 seconds. This will help to develop supportive muscles in the foot and ankle. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- One Legged Stand – Another helpful exercise is the one legged stand. As the name implies, this involves balancing on one leg for 15 seconds, as it will force your affected leg to handle additional strain. You can do this by a kitchen counter or table for support as well, but really try to challenge your foot to perform the exercise, as this will help you get the most out of the exercise.
These are just a few of the exercises that may be recommended if you’re dealing with drop foot, but we’d be more than happy to tailor a specific strengthening program to your needs. For more information, or for help with a different physical issue, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.
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