Foot Drop

Foot Drop

Foot drop is a condition or term that is used to describe an inability to dorsiflex or extend the foot as we walk. Because of this, when a person has foot drop their foot starts to slap the ground as they walk. This foot drop does not allow to foot to clear the ground during walking and people start to trip over their own foot frequently. The reason this occurs is because the tibialis anterior muscle that allows dorsiflexion during walking is weakened.

The cause of foot drop is tibialis anterior weakness due to either L4-L5 (L5) discogenic radiculopathy or peroneal nerve palsy. When the L4-L5 disc is herniated it may compression on the L4 or L5 nerve root that supplies the tibialis anterior muscle. This compression leads to the nerve no longer being able to send contraction signals down to the muscle. The other way foot drop may occur is from a nerve lesion down closer to the muscle in the leg. This is called peroneal nerve palsy and occurs during trauma, compression by a tendon or compartment or a tumor.

The way the chiropractors and physiotherapists at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) determine if the foot drop is a result of a low back disc lesion at L4-L5 or a nerve problem in the leg with the peroneal nerve is to have a look at foot inversion and gluteus medius weakness as these are both unaffected and spared in peroneal nerve palsy but involved when there is radiculopathy.

Symptoms of foot drop

The symptoms of foot drop are what the name suggests. Foot drop occurs when we have the inability to lift our foot (toes pointing to the sky) as we walk in order for our foot to clear the ground. If the issue is with the low back there may be low back pain, gluteal weakness of a flexed hip and possible sensory loss detected by our chiropractors and physiotherapists. If the issue is with the peroneal nerve there is usually symptoms associated with a history of trauma, infection or tumor.

Treatment of foot drop

Foot drop can be a medical emergency and if either our chiropractors or physiotherapists suspect a foot drop during the history and assessment prompt referral may be given to a medical specialist or hospital. The longer the foot drop is apparent the less chance there is of a full recovery. Surgery will aim to fix the cause of the problem and take the pressure of the nervous structure that is causing the foot drop. In mild cases no surgery is needed and rehabilitation by our chiropractors and physiotherapists leads to a full recovery however in all cases there must to a team approach in the management by a chiropractor, physiotherapist, medical doctor and surgeon.

Causes of low back pain

The following conditions are common causes of low back pain.