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How to Manage Drop Foot Long-Term

Drop foot is aptly named. When you have it, an underlying issue causes the front part of your foot to drop down — meaning it’s difficult to lift. As a result, you may find that the front of your foot drags when you walk. And while drop foot affects some people temporarily, it can also last for some time, potentially becoming permanent.

At Oexeman Foot and Ankle, PLLC, in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Stephanie Oexeman and her team provide comprehensive foot and ankle care and have vast experience diagnosing and treating drop foot in teens and adults. 

Here’s a closer look at drop foot, including ways to manage it long-term.

What causes drop foot

Also known as foot drop, drop foot isn’t an illness or disease. Rather, it stems from an underlying anatomical, neurological, or muscular problem. Its symptoms, including the uncomfortable way of walking, known as steppage gait, and sometimes numbness, happen when the muscles that lift the front of your foot are weakened or paralyzed. 

Potential causes include:

  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Diabetes-related nerve issues
  • Herniated discs
  • Nerve injuries, such as following knee or hip surgery
  • Muscle disorders, such as muscular dystrophy
  • Neurological disorders, such as polio 
  • Spinal cord issues from stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or multiple sclerosis

Certain activities may also raise your risk for drop foot, including frequent leg crossing or kneeling, and wearing a plaster cast on your leg.

How to manage drop foot long-term

Treatment for drop foot aims to reduce your symptoms, help you feel more comfortable, and improve your mobility. Drop foot treatment can also prevent complications, such as falls and injuries, and increase your overall quality of life.

Depending on factors such as the cause and severity of your symptoms, Dr. Oexeman may recommend:

  • A brace or splint to keep your foot in a normal position
  • Nerve stimulation for a compressed nerve
  • Physical therapy to strengthen your leg muscles and support your ankle and knee range of motion
  • Surgery, in which a healthier tendon is transferred to a different part of your foot 
  • Surgical nerve repair

You may also benefit from custom orthotics and doing special stretching exercises at home daily. 

Most people fully recover from drop foot at some point. If a more serious, chronic condition fuels your symptoms, however, you may need ongoing treatment. Either way, our team is here to help.

To learn more about drop foot management or to get the care you need, call our office or book an appointment online today.