Dropfoot (also known as foot drop or dropped foot) refers to a weakening of the muscles that allow the ankle and toes to flex, causing difficulty in moving the ankle and toes upwards (dorsiflexion). This can cause the individual to drag their toes while walking and to compensate by bending the knee and hip to lift the foot higher than usual, to prevent it catching on the ground during swing phase (steppage gait). While dropfoot is a neuromuscular disorder that affects the nerves and muscles, it is not actually a disease in itself but rather a symptom of some other medical problem.
The underlying causes of dropfoot are varied and may include:
• Nerve injury
A common cause of drop foot is trauma of the nerve that controls the muscles involved in lifting the foot (peroneal nerve). The nerve can also be injured during hip or knee replacement surgery.
• Muscle or nerve disorders
Various forms of muscular dystrophy, an inherited disease that causes progressive muscle weakness, may contribute to drop foot. Other disorders, such as Polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, also can cause drop foot.
• Brain and spinal cord disorders
Disorders that affect the spinal cord or brain — such as spinal injuries (complete or incomplete), Multiple Sclerosis, stroke and Cerebral Palsy — may also cause foot drop.
Typical orthotic treatments for drop foot include a variety of different types of AFOs (Ankle Foot Orthosis). These can be bespoke and use a range of materials such as Silicone (SAFO) polypropylene (plastic) and pre-preg carbon fibre. There is also a wide choice of off-the-shelf AFO solutions available.
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