Physiotherapy for foot drop in Children: What is foot drop? Foot drop in children describes the inability of a child to lift their toes when walking. This can result in a child walking with their toes dragging on the floor before the heel strike causing altered mechanics of walking patterns and abnormal movement such as swinging their leg to make a wider arc or lifting their knee higher than normal. Visual signs of foot drop in the inability to lift the front part of your foot making it likely to drag when you walk on the floor. The ability to lift the foot is an essential part of the 'swing phase' of a normal walking gait pattern. Similarly a gait where an individual slaps they foot down on the floor after each step is associated with foot drop. Other symptoms include numbness or tingling on the top of the foot and around the toes. Visual muscular atrophy may be other symptoms to look out for in association with foot drop. What causes foot drop? Foot drop can be both temporary and permanent and may also be linked to underlying genetic conditions that cause gradual weakness for example neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy. Children that suffer from diabetes are more susceptible to nerve disorders such as foot drop. Foot drop may be due to muscular weakness or paralysis and is a sign of an underlying condition. Although it only affects the muscles in the foot it may be caused by nerve damage as a result of a brain or spinal injury or a muscular problem which needs addressing. Some brain or spinal cord conditions that are associated with foot drop include stroke, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Foot drop is most commonly due to a compression of nerve that controls the lift of the foot, they may have become trapped or damaged following surgery or may sometimes be linked with diabetes. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a similar inherited condition which is caused by peripheral nerve damage and muscular weakness How is a foot drop diagnosed? A GP or neurologist is likely to undertake a few nerve conduction tests following a physical examination. If necessary they will send you for a MRI scan or electromyography which may be used to establish any underlying causes and to establish any treatable causes. What problems caused by foot drop can physiotherapy help with? Strengthening and balance exercises to help reduce the risk of falls Exercises to reduce tightness in the muscles surrounding the leg Advice and education on orthotic treatment if necessary Gait re-education Mobilisations of the foot to improve the ability to access movement Braces and aid to help with maintenance and control How does physiotherapy help with foot drop? Increase quality of life Increased function Increased confidence Improve child development Increase physical activity levels and reducing the risk of other chronic conditions. Increased independence through promoting and maintaining mobility. What would treatment for foot drop include? Assessments and reports Advice and Education Bobath approach The Brunnstrom Approach Conductive Education Electronic Muscle Stimulation Physical examination to assess nerve stimulation Braces and splints can be fitted to help realign a normal gait Strengthening of surrounding leg muscles to help maintain a range of motion Stretching to help prevent stiffness occurring at the heel. Ultrasound to check for cysts or possible tumours that may be compressing the nerve. Gait re-education to restore normal patterns of movement Equipment and Adaptations Assessment Gait re-education and Training Hydrotherapy treatment for Children Lycra Orthoses or Splinting Mobility Rehab Neurological Rehabilitation Orthotics Odstock device WalkAide device Foot drop can increase the likelihood of falls and tripping therefore fall management is crucial. Extra precautions should be made to ensure floors are clear and free from an obstacles which may cause an individual to fall. How do I arrange a physiotherapy assessment for foot drop? We understand that foot drop can have a significant impact on your life and here at Manchester Neuro Physio we have a team of physiotherapists who can provide effective treatments to maximise your potential and improve your quality of life. We provide treatment for people with foot drop across Greater Manchester and Cheshire at any of our clinic locations or at home for your convenience. To arrange an assessment with one our physiotherapists please call 0161 883 0066.