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Physical therapy treatments for foot drop

Nancy Chevremont | posted February 23, 2012 | Bookmark and Share

“Foot drop” is not a disease, but rather a symptom of neurological, muscular or anatomical problems. Foot drop is when the patient has trouble lifting the front part of the foot while walking to avoid tripping on it.

The goal of foot drop therapy is to help the patient regain a regular gait and walk safely. Treatment will vary depending on the cause. In many cases, physical therapy and exercise can help with this muscle weakness or paralysis. Physical therapists help the patient retrain and strengthen the muscles that lead to foot drop.

Here are some of the commonly used exercises for foot drop therapy:

Ball Lift

The patient sits on a chair, holding the sides for support, with a tennis ball on the ground. He or she then tries to grab and lift the ball with the toes (bare feet) and bring it up as high as possible. Repeat ten times. Take a half-minute break and repeat three sets (with breaks in-between).

Leg Flex

Sitting on the floor with legs extended in front, the patient lifts the affected leg a few inches off the ground and flexes the toes so that they face the abdomen, holding for five seconds. He or she then flexes the leg in the opposite direction so that the toes point away from the body. Hold position for five seconds. Repeat ten times.

Foot Stretch

The patient sits on the floor with legs out, looping a towel over the top half of the affected foot. He or she then pulls the towel with both ends toward the body, stretching out the toes for six seconds, taking a half-minute break, and repeating six times.


The cycling motion is quite effective, whether done on a stationary bike, real bicycle, or lying on the floor and making the cycling motion in the air with the legs.

Physical therapists will emphasize to patients how critical it is for them to do their exercises, even on days when they don’t have therapy. People can often be functional and independent with this symptom, particularly with the help of a physical therapist.

Read more about AseraCare’s rehabilitative services here.

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