Have you ever sat in an odd position and had one foot fall asleep? In addition to feeling numb, that foot is typically hard to move around. The nerves and muscles have been temporarily impaired, so your foot moves sluggishly, if at all. Injuries or disorders can damage your foot muscles and nerves and create a similar, but more dangerous, effect. Foot drop is one such condition.
This is a problem with the muscles that lift the front of your foot. The disorder is actually a symptom of a larger problem. Some neurological or muscular issue weakens or impairs the muscles in the front of the lower leg so they are unable to work properly. You end up dragging your toes along the ground when you take a step. This condition can affect just one or both feet at the same time, depending on the underlying disorder that caused the muscular problem.
Trying to walk with one or both of your feet dragging can trip you as you try to move around. Some people raise their knees higher than normal to counter the problem, while others may swing their legs out to the side. Sometimes your foot slaps the ground when you walk because you cannot control your foot strikes. You may also have numbness along the tops of your feet or toes.
The most common culprit for this issue is a nerve injury, either in the legs or lower back. A peroneal nerve injury damages the nervous tissue that controls the front and side of the lower leg. This could develop from an illness or autoimmune disease, as well as from an injury that compresses the nerve.
Other underlying problems can cause the issue as well. Inherited muscular or nervous disorders may affect the foot’s muscles. Diseases that affect the brain or spinal cord may manifest in the lower limbs as foot drop. Years with nerve damage from diabetes can also contribute to the problem. Since the condition is usually related to a nervous issue, it can become permanent—especially if it’s not addressed soon enough.
If you notice your foot dragging when you take a step, and you have a hard time flexing your foot, you may have this condition. Certain underlying issues that cause this problem can be corrected, which will restore your foot, but they have to be investigated right away to prevent permanent damage. Dr. Noah Levine will evaluate your foot and lower legs to determine what is causing your condition. Our staff may need to perform a variety of tests to rule out other possible issues and identify the source of your problem.
Pinched or compressed nerves, whether from a sports injury or something else, can be released. This relieves the damage and allows your foot to recover, especially if it’s caught soon enough. Damage from diabetes can be managed by improving your blood sugar levels and practicing regular foot care. Foot drop caused by autoimmune or progressive disorders will probably not be reversible. However, treating the underlying disease can slow the problem in your feet and allow it to be treated.
After the source has been identified, there are options available to address your dragging feet. You may need special braces or custom orthotics to support the lower limbs and improve your walking. Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in the front of your lower leg and maintain your joints’ range of motion may help. In some cases, you may need therapy or a procedure to decompress a pinched nerve. If the loss of movement is permanent, you may need surgery to fuse various joints or relocate tendons from other muscles to the top of the foot—that way you’ll be less likely to trip over your own toes.
Foot drop can be a serious, progressive problem. Generally, it’s a symptom of a larger nerve or muscle issue. If you notice your toes dragging when you try to walk, don’t ignore them. Have it investigated to identify the underlying problem and see how it can be corrected—before the damage is permanent. Absolute Foot Care Specialists here in Las Vegas can help you restore your lower limbs and maintain your mobility. Request more information or make an appointment with us by calling (702) 839-2010 or by using our online contact form.