Not being able to lift your foot properly can severely limit your mobility. Ankle foot orthotics for foot drop can help improve your quality of life.
An ankle foot orthosis (AFO) helps people coping with various foot and ankle problems, including the condition known as foot drop. Ankle foot orthotics for foot drop can be tailored to your specific needs by taking into account how you are currently walking and whether there is a primary condition that is causing the foot drop.
What Causes Foot Drop?
People with foot drop, which is sometimes known as “drop foot,” have trouble lifting up the front of their feet when they walk so the foot drags when walking. To correct this drag, many patients tend to lift up their legs higher to compensate, causing a “slapping” down on the ground, which can be harmful to the foot and leg.
Characterized by a weakness or paralysis of the muscles at the front of the foot, foot drop can be caused by compressed nerves and spinal injuries. Compressed nerves affecting your foot can sometimes arise after you have had to wear a leg cast for an extended period of time, if you habitually cross your legs for hours at a time, or if your job requires extended periods of squatting or kneeling. Other health issues related to foot drop include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tumors, strokes, and nerve or muscle disorders.
Who Should Use AFOs?
Ankle foot orthoses are often recommended by doctors if underlying cause of the problem is unclear. As a first-line treatment, AFOs represent a low-cost, non-invasive treatment strategy for foot drop. The bracing effect of the orthotic device merely acts as a way to hold the foot into normal position, rather than allowing it to drag on the ground. For people who are not able to walk normally even with an AFO, surgery or physical therapy will likely be recommended.
How Do AFOs Work?
An ankle foot orthosis typically has a piece that supports the bottom part of your foot, and either continues up to just above your ankle, or attaches to a strap placed just above your ankle. Depending on the nature of your condition, ankle foot orthotics can be made of different materials, including thermoformed plastic and specialized elastic straps.
The most crucial thing an AFO does for people suffering from foot drop is keep their foot from dragging and hold it in a normal position. With the ankle braced to its normal 90 degree angle, foot drop sufferers achieve a more normal walking pattern, making the problem less noticeable. More importantly, a corrected gait prevents additional problems, such as injuries resulting from tripping or stumbling. It’s also possible for people who are walking with an uneven gait to throw their spines out of alignment, or to experience joint issues from the unnaturally hard slamming of the heel into the ground.
If you are interested in how your quality of life can improve with ankle foot orthotics for foot drop, contact Horton’s Orthotics & Prosthetics today at 501-683-8889 to set up an appointment with one of our certified clinicians.