For many people living with Multiple Sclerosis, foot drop is a common if not everyday challenge. MS foot drop is a general term for difficulty lifting the front of your foot, often impacting your ability to walk, climb stairs, and move in general. Foot drop results from disrupted motor signals from your brain to the muscles that control your foot. You may not notice at first as those signals weaken, so foot drop can develop slowly over time.
As it progresses, foot drop causes some people to change how they walk to compensate; for example, by lifting the leg higher so that the foot doesn’t drag on an uneven surface. These compensations can cause hip pain, back pain and poor balance over time, so it’s important to acknowledge and address foot drop early.
Below are four of the best tips we’ve heard for MS foot drop that don’t involve wearing a brace. If you have just started noticing your toes drag on the floor when you walk, please consult your doctor.
Massage your Calf and Foot - Gently massaging muscles in your foot and calf will start to release muscles and activate connections with the brain. Specifically focus under the ball of your foot and from the back of your calf down to behind your ankle. Massage can also be a great MS spasticity treatment.
Stretching - These stretches don’t have to be wide ranges of motion. As you massage your foot and calf you’ll find tender areas that can be helped with slight stretching.
Movement - After massaging and stretching, your body will be in the best position to move without foot drop. You want to capitalize on that and reteach your brain how to process that movement properly. Walking or even small steps forward and to the side to can help reprogram walking without foot drop.
Physical Therapy - Physical therapy for MS can help increase flexibility, reduce spasticity and increase strength. Since it could be weakness or spasticity that causes foot drop, having a physical therapist assessment and guidance can put you on the right path faster.
If symptoms progress or you feel that you need structural support, you can look into an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) or even functional electrical stimulation (FES). As is the nature of Multiple Sclerosis, an FES might work for one person and not another.
All of these approaches attempt to get at the brain through the body, altering sensation and movement so that the brain creates a new template for that movement. Living with MS, this is a constant process. If you want to try exercises that get to the brain directly in minutes, that’s where Rekinetics comes in. To see if there is a Rekinetics-certified practitioner in your area, try it FOR FREE, or participate in our 1-month online MS program, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out a Contact Us form on our website.