Foot Drop

I always wondered what foot drop was when I first heard about the symptom. What could be happening to make someone's foot do that? It usually shows up pretty early in someone who has multiple sclerosis. It is such a common symptom of MS, that if someone has it, doctors can use it as a diagnostic tool.

AFO photo courtesy of Phil41Dean

So what exactly is happening when you have this symptom? In normal walking, the foot and ankle work together to lift the toe up as you swing your foot through to take a step. With this symptom, it becomes more and more difficult to lift the foot and ankle to walk normally. This can cause you to trip over your feet, so to speak. This is most often the reason for falling without reason or warning.

Cir's Treatment

This symptom and balance problems make it increasingly difficult to walk as the disease progresses. Fortunately, it can be treated. Exercise may help a little, but it will not completely eliminate it. When Cir began experiencing foot drop, he was sent to physical therapy for an evaluation. Once there, the PT (physical therapist), watched him walk. At that time he was still using a cane.

After their evaluation, they recommended an AFO or ankle foot orthosis. This is a brace, usually made of plastic, that fits around the calf, ankle, and bottom of the foot. It is made at an angle so that the foot and ankle are always lifted up in the correct position as the wearer is walking. This makes it impossible for the foot to drop down and cause you to trip or fall.

In the beginning, Cir wore an AFO on both feet, but as time went on, he only wore it on the weakest leg – his right. The first few pairs were much more heavy than the one he has now. Over the years, the technicians have gotten better at making them, so they are lighter and more comfortable.

New Treatment

Another advancement in the treatment of foot drop has been a device called the NESS L300 made by Bioness, Inc. of California. What exactly is a NESS L300, you ask? According to Bioness, it's a device worn around the knee that delivers electrical stimulation to the leg muscles. These muscles are the ones responsible for movement and coordination.

The cuff is worn below the knee. It contains electrodes which deliver a light electrical charge to the muscles. There is a sensor on the shoe as well. It tells the cuff whether or not the foot is elevated or on the ground. Depending on where your foot is, the stimulation stops or starts. You also have a hand held controller to adjust the level of stimulation.

Before buying the NESS L300, you can try it for a one month fee of $500 dollars. If the device works for you, you can decide whether or not to buy it. Here is a short video that shows what happens when you are wearing the device. Following that, is a set of videos showing actual people with foot drop.

And here's a link to the website, if you'd like to find out more and possibly get one of your own to try out. (Link will open a new window).

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