Stroke is a leading cause of disability. Stroke survivors may experience weakness, paralysis, and loss of sensation in one or both sides of their bodies. This can affect movement, balance, coordination, and speech. Foot drop is a common complication after a stroke that causes the foot to drag when walking. The muscles that lift the toes when you walk are weak or paralyzed, so the foot flops as you step forward. The good news is that there are many ways to help manage foot drop after a stroke:
- Use Proper Footwear
Avoid flip-flops and high heels, which can cause instability or weakness in your ankles and feet. Make sure that any footwear feels comfortable and supportive. When you walk, your feet should be positioned at a 90-degree angle with each step you take. This keeps your feet stable and reduces the risk of falls and injury.
Good shoes should support this position by keeping your ankles aligned with your knees and hips while providing enough cushioning for comfort. Shoes with a wide toe box are best because they allow more room for toes to move freely. Avoid shoes with a high heel or pointed toe because these can make balance more difficult for anyone who has trouble walking already due to weakness or dizziness from their stroke symptoms.
Shoes with good arch support are also important because they keep your feet properly aligned while walking or running and provide more stability when jumping or landing from a height. Also, foot braces are designed to help prevent your foot from dropping while walking. They usually attach to your shoe and can be adjusted so that they’re snug on the top of your foot and allow you to wiggle your toes without falling off. You may need to wear a drop foot brace for a few days after your stroke. You’ll probably feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to keep wearing the brace until it feels like it’s not helping anymore.
- Use Toe Crutches or Cane Walkers If Needed
These are special crutches with short poles that fit under your fingers instead of your palms. They may help improve your balance and reduce your fall risk when walking with foot drop. You can buy the crutches at most medical supply stores or online (search “toe crutch”). Or ask your doctor or physical therapist about making them yourself using PVC pipes or other materials. A cane helps support your weight and prevent falls while walking outdoors on uneven surfaces or slippery floors indoors. A walker gives more stability than a cane, especially when you take longer strides outdoors or up and down stairs indoors. Some people find that using both together works best for them.
- Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and well-being. And it’s not just for young people. Exercising regularly as we age can help us stay active and independent and reduce our risk of developing or worsening heart disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions. It is also a great way to prevent falls among older adults with foot drop, a common problem after stroke. Falls are one of the leading causes of injury among those over 65 years old, and many fall injuries can result in broken bones or head trauma. You can do many different exercises from home or at a local gym to help strengthen muscles affected by foot drop.
- Practice Toe Raises and Ankle Pumps
This will strengthen the muscles in your calf and help improve your walking ability. Practice them at least four times a day while sitting or standing up straight against a wall or chair with one knee slightly bent and one heel against it. Hold this position for three seconds and then stand up without holding on to anything while keeping both knees straightened outwards as much as possible without causing pain or discomfort (don’t worry if you can’t do this right away). Repeat this process five times each day until you can do it easily without any pain or discomfort in either leg or hip area.
- Use Knee-High Compression Stockings to Increase Blood Flow to Your Feet
These can help reduce swelling in your ankles and legs and improve circulation. Ask your doctor or nurse about compression stockings for a follow-up visit after your stroke to find out more about them.
Foot drop isn’t the most common stroke symptom, but it can significantly change your life if you experience it. It’s kind of like being in a boot—constantly. You have to relearn how to walk with it. Luckily, after a lot of physical therapy, you will get there. Just keep working at it.
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