Firm Logo

What is Foot Drop?

By: Anapol Weiss

Foot drop is the inability to lift the front part of the foot due to weakness or paralysis of the muscles. Foot drop can lead to difficulty walking which can result in lifting the knees higher or swinging the leg from side to side to avoid toes dragging on the floor. Foot drop is not categorized as a disease, but rather an indicator of a neurological, muscular or anatomical issue.

Causes of Foot Drop

Foot drop can be life-long or temporary depending on the root cause of the issue. Foot drop is caused by the following:

Nerve Injury– If the peroneal nerve, the nerve that is responsible for foot muscle movement, is compressed, the result could be foot drop. The compression or injury to this nerve could take place during hip or knee replacement surgery. Additionally, if there is a pinched nerve in the spine, that could also lead to foot drop.

Muscle or Nerve Disorders– Any form of progressive muscle deterioration could lead to foot drop because the muscles are weak.

Brain and Spinal Cord Disorders– Disorders that affect either the brain or spinal cord such as stroke or multiple sclerosis can also lead to foot drop.

Symptoms of Foot Drop

If you feel numbness, burning or tingling in your foot, these are all common signs of foot drop. Additionally, any feelings of limpness in the foot, muscle atrophy or toe dragging are symptoms that are common to foot drop. If you experience these symptoms, it is recommended to see a medical profession right away to begin treatment and possibly repair any damage if possible.

Foot Drop and Medical Malpractice

One common cause of foot drop is due to surgical errors by healthcare professionals. If the surgical error could have been prevented and it was the negligent act of a healthcare professional that lead to your injury, you might be able to file a medical malpractice claim.

Foot drop can occur following a back, hip, knee or leg surgery. Foot drop occurs when the peroneal nerve, which is located at the back on the knee and wraps around to the front of the shin, is compressed or cut. The peroneal nerve controls the muscles that lift the foot. This can happen in the operating room if a restraining strap placed during surgery is in the incorrect location or on too tight for too long. Additionally, if a medical professional places a piece of medical equipment or their own body pressure on the peroneal nerve for an extended amount of time, their patient could suffer develop foot drop. Lastly, if the peroneal nerve is accidently cut during an incision, it can lead to foot drop because the peroneal nerve is no longer able to successfully control the muscles to lift the foot.

Foot Drop Identification & Treatment

A medical professional will test for foot drop during a physical exam to determine if there is any muscle weakness when the patient walks. Not all foot drop cases are due to medical malpractice during surgery. Foot drop is also caused by an overgrown bone near the spine or a tumor putting pressure on the peroneal nerve in the knee or spine. A variety of tests like x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs can assist the doctor in identifying if their patient has foot drop.

Following the identification of foot drop, treatments can include braces, physical therapy, nerve stimulation and surgery. Each foot drop case varies due to the cause and severity. Some cases may improve with treatment and most severe cases will continue throughout life.