Do you have challenges with swing-face foot clearance post-stroke and stance phase control that impairs your walking? If so, you might consider a drop foot brace. A drop foot brace is an ankle and foot brace for nerve injury patients, stroke, and neurological disorders. The brace maintains the backward bending of the foot and prevents it from inverting during gait.
What Is Drop Foot?
In simple terms, a drop foot is a condition that affects your ability to lift your feet and toes while walking. The inability to raise the feet and toes often leads to tripping and falling both at home and outside. This can result in serious injuries.
Let us get into the science behind it. The dorsiflexor muscles of the foot and ankle include the tibialis anterior(TA), extensor halluces longus (EHL), and extensor digitorum longus (EDL). The muscles work in tandem during normal gait to help the foot swing clear of the floor. They also control plantar flexion when the foot and ground initially contact. This is usually not the case when you develop a drop foot.
Causes of Drop Foot
The leading cause of drop foot is damage or weakness to the muscles found in front of the leg that controls upward movement. The defect can either be caused by a neurological condition or injury.
From a neurological standpoint, a drop foot can result from disease, brain damage, or spinal cord damage. The conditions that can result in dropping foot include:
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy
- Nerve damage
Drop foot diagnosis can be pretty straightforward. Your doctor will watch you walking and examine your muscles and legs. At times, imaging such as ultrasounds, computerized tomography, and X-rays will be used. The diagnosis process is usually straightforward, and there is no need to worry.
Can You Recover from a Drop Foot?
You can recover from a drop foot depending on the condition’s cause. When an injury causes the disease, chances of recovery are significant through physiotherapy. The physiotherapy will help to strengthen muscles with a foot orthosis like the foot-up. Also, the recovery level will be dependent on the severity of the injury and differ from one person to another.
However, there is no guarantee for a cure for the condition. If a neurological disorder causes the foot drop, you may have to live with the condition for the rest of your life. There are still available treatment options to improve mobility and enhance confidence. These treatment options are physiotherapy and orthosis or a foot drop brace. A combination of both is usually offered to achieve the best outcomes.
How Does a Drop Foot Brace Work?
A drop foot brace has different names, from drop foot support to foot splint. You should, therefore, not get confused by the terminologies. Focus more on the product that will assist you with your mobility.
Some patients with foot drop will choose to swing the affected leg to the side rather than let their toes drag. Others will lift their legs high as if they are matching so that their feet can clear the ground. These patterns do not, however, address the real issue. The patterns are actually putting the individual at risk of chronic pain and higher rates of fatigue.
This is why doctors and therapists usually recommend an AFO. A drop foot brace is a popular form of treating drop foot. The braces support the ankles, keeping the toes aligned with the foot rather than letting them drag. They offer patients the support and confidence they need to remain active by preventing the foot from dropping hence offering enhanced mobility. They also reduce the chances of tripping or falling over.
Foot drop braces are one of the first treatment options for individuals with foot drop. However, the braces should be used as a temporary aid for many rather than a permanent treatment.
The best recovery method is to practice food drop exercises regularly. The activities will enhance neuroplasticity and help you regain your foot and ankle. As you continuously improve, the enhanced neuroplasticity will help you slowly outgrow the need for a foot brace. That is enough with constant effort and time; you will eventually wean off the need for a foot brace AFO altogether.