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Understanding Your Foot Drop Diagnosis

Understanding Your Foot Drop Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with foot drop can be confusing and overwhelming. Suddenly, a simple walk down the street can feel like navigating an obstacle course.

If you’re struggling to lift your foot or experiencing tingling and weakness, you might have many questions about what foot drop means for you. 

At his practice in Houston, Texas, board-certified surgeon, Anthony Echo, MD, and his team specialize in diagnosing and treating foot drop caused by peroneal nerve compression. 

Our goal is to provide you with the information and care you need to improve your mobility and quality of life. Keep reading to better understand your foot drop diagnosis and how we can help.

What exactly is foot drop anyway?

Foot drop, also sometimes called drop foot, is a condition that affects your ability to lift the front part of your foot. 

This can cause frustrating symptoms, such as your toes dragging on the ground as you walk, leading to a distinctive high-stepping gait or dragging your foot as you try to avoid tripping. 

Foot drop is typically caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the foot, often due to nerve damage—specifically the common peroneal nerve. 

The largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, is formed by the merging of five nerves in the lower spine. 

The common peroneal nerve, which is a branch of the sciatic nerve, runs down your leg and passes just below the lateral knee, where it is commonly compressed. 

This nerve is crucial for controlling the muscles that lift your ankle and straighten your toes. It also plays a significant role in the sensations you feel in your outer ankle and the  top of the foot and toes.

Why do I have foot drop in the first place?

Foot drop can result from different factors that lead to compression of or damage to the peroneal nerve. Some of the most common causes of drop foot include:


Procedures like hip or knee replacement can sometimes lead to peroneal nerve compression and foot drop, in patients who likely had some degree of compression prior to surgery. 


Trauma from sports and accidents, especially a knee dislocation or fractures in the leg can damage or compress the nerve, which can lead to foot drop.

Prolonged pressure

Activities like wearing a leg cast or sitting with your knees crossed for extended periods can compress the peroneal nerve.

What should I do after being diagnosed with foot drop?

If you’ve been diagnosed with foot drop, it’s important not to delay treatment. Early treatment is key to successful recovery, while not seeking treatment can lead to serious complications. Many mild cases of foot drop can spontaneously resolve within a few months, where the individual will start to see some gradual improvement over the first several weeks. Thus, not every case of foot drop will require surgery, but if there is no significant improvement in the first 3 months, it may indicate that surgical decompression is warranted. 

With considerable experience in nerve surgery and microsurgery, Dr. Echo specializes in providing personalized foot drop treatment, typically starting with the least invasive options and with a goal of easing symptoms and improving function. 

Your treatment may include a combination of therapies. While everyone's treatment plan differs, some common foot drop therapies include:

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is key for strengthening the muscles and improving mobility. Specific exercises designed to target the affected muscles can help you regain strength and coordination.

Orthotic devices

Ankle or leg orthotics, along with orthotic shoe inserts, can provide support and improve your walking pattern. These devices help keep your foot in a normal position, reducing the risk of tripping and falling.

Surgical solutions 

If conservative treatments aren’t effective, Dr. Echo may recommend surgery to release pressure on the peroneal nerve. 

The procedure involves making a small incision on the outside of your knee and releasing the thickened tissues compressing the nerve. 

With the pressure eased, the nerve can begin to heal and regenerate. The hope that your muscles in the leg are still viable and the nerve can reinnervate the muscles. However, in slime cases, the compression, damage, multiple compression site might prevent regeneration of the nerve or reversal of the foot drop.  In the case of optimal candidates, the hope is that you will have some degree of functional restoration and improved gait over several months. However, depending on many different factors, some patients can have little to no recovery. 

Learn more about foot drop and the ways we can help by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at the Anthony Echo, MD, office in Houston.

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