Do you trip or stumble a little more than you think you should? If so, there’s a chance that this could be the result of ‘Foot Drop’.
Foot drop is a condition caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in the operation of lifting the front part of the foot. This is a particular issue when we walk, as this can lead to excessive tripping or falling, or pain caused as a result of the sufferer deliberately altering their gait pattern to avoid this. One common cause of foot drop, is an interruption of the signals from the brain to the peroneal nerve, and this is not unusual in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), spinal injuries or those who have suffered a stroke.
There are several ways that this can be managed, but one way is with a merging of orthotic technology with electrical stimulation. This doesn’t simply brace the limb to improve mobility, but instead using Myo-orthotic technology, restores the functionality of the impaired limb by recreating a natural nerve and muscle response producing only a slight tingling. The WalkAide FES system is worn on the skin, removing the need for implant surgery. This sounds like it could be an ordeal, but this really is modern technology doing its bit towards improving mobility, without any kind of invasive treatment, and with only a small cuff needing to be worn around the leg.
It may be that the orthotist would suggest a more rigid brace, such as a Carbon Fibre AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis). Carbon fibre is an incredibly light, durable and hypoallergenic material. A carbon fibre AFO can provide a decrease in bulk and an increase in activity due to it’s ‘spring’ effect offering smoother and more natural gait. This option clearly doesn’t introduce the need for electronic stimulation, and whilst it might be a little more visible than the FES unit, is not bulky or unwieldy.
Some sufferers may find that a SAFO (Silicone Ankle Foot Orthosis) is more appropriate. This is a total contact silicone orthosis which incorporates the foot and ankle, and works by lifting the foot from above, as opposed to pushing from underneath as per traditional rigid braces. The SAFO gives support without interfering with normal biomechanics. This silicon brace is obviously less rigid, and can for some, be the perfect solution to the tripping issue.
Ultimately, it needs an Orthotist to assess your particular issue, and taking into account your lifestyle, other potential medical conditions, and your own personal preferences, they are best placed to prescribe the correct solution for you. Either way, all of these solutions, and others which might also be appropriate, are far better than tripping or falling on a regular basis, as this in many, can cause additional problems. So, if this is you, then make an appointment to see an Orthotist as soon as possible, as the next fall might just be the one that makes matters a whole lot worse!