posted on March 26, 2010 12:48
Drop foot after a stroke is quite common. Foot drop, dropped foot or drop foot are all common labels for the same malady that is a weakness of the muscles in the front of the leg, which is caused by damage to the long nerves or peroneal nerve which is in the front of the leg. It can also be caused by muscle damage or some abnormality in the anatomy or a combination. Brain damage that has resulted from a stroke or multiple sclerosis can also cause the malady.
Symptoms of foot drop present as a gait that involves slapping the affected foot onto the floor instead of stepping. It can also cause an increase in the upward movement of the thigh or a wide swing of the leg to avoid the slapping. Symptoms will vary from person to person, but an abnormal gait is most evident in all patients who have foot drop after a stroke. Strokes produce many neurological issues. Foot drop is usually a neurological issue caused by damage to the nerves in the leg which can be the initial result of stroke.
Weakness of the ankle and foot will cause all of the symptoms to occur. Drop foot after a stroke can be either neurological or muscular damage. The muscle is rarely damaged but can become dysfunctional due to atrophy associated with lack of use and exercise. Tingling of the lower leg and foot can also be present.
There are several treatment modalities to improve drop foot after a stroke. Incorporating appliances such as braces constructed of plastic can be used. Stimulation of the peroneal nerve has recently been shown to improve the condition and this is combination with a brace or ankle support and physical therapy has shown great improvement.
Shoes can also be fitted with a brace that is spring-loaded to decrease foot slapping and foot drop gait. That is a simple procedure that includes and ankle brace that is attached under the shoe lace which lifts the foot as the person walks.
Treatment varies as does the severity of drop foot after a stroke. A lot depends on the persons activity level and willingness to engage in long-term physical therapy to strengthen the affected musculature. The assistance of a plastic brace or support is every helpful. Some supports are made of materials other than plastic which may improve the comfort of the appliance. Individual, personalized treatment can be reached with the proper medical care givers and a lot of patience on the part of the patient and their immediate family or friends.
Another option is Finetech Medical's STIMuSTEP system, which is an implanted neuromuscular stimulator that uses functional electrical stimulation (FES) to help correct dropped foot condition. The system delivers small electrical pulses to the nerves that supply the paralysed muscles. This allows independent control of dorsiflextion (lifting the foot) and eversion (rotate ankle to the correct position), which correcting the abnormal movement of the affected foot during the swing phase of gait.
Recovery from a stroke is time consuming and sometimes very depressing due to new limitations placed upon a person as a direct result of the nerve damage in the brain which leads to immobilization in other parts of the body. The continuum of neurological damage leading to muscle inactivity will cause such after effects as paralyzed limbs and speech impairment.
Drop foot after a stroke is just one of the many possible conditions that can occur. It can be helped, but not always cured. Adjustments in life style are tough, especially at older ages and much support is needed from loved ones.