Foot drop is usually diagnosed during a physical exam. Your doctor will want to watch you walk and may check a number of your leg muscles for weakness. He or she may also check for numbness on your shin and on the top of your foot and toes. In some cases, additional testing is recommended.
Foot drop is sometimes caused by an overgrowth of bone in the spinal canal or by a tumor or cyst pressing on the nerve in the knee or spine. Imaging tests can help pinpoint these types of problems.
- X-rays. Plain X-rays use a low level of radiation to visualize a soft tissue mass or a bone lesion that may be causing your symptoms.
- Ultrasound. This technology uses sound waves to create images of internal structures. It may be used to check for cysts or tumors that may be pressing on the nerve.
- Computerized tomography (CT scan). Computerized tomography combines X-ray images taken from many different angles to form cross-sectional views of structures within the body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images. MRI is particularly useful in visualizing soft tissue lesions that may be compressing a nerve.
Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies measure electrical activity in the muscles and nerves. These tests can be uncomfortable, but they're very useful in determining the location of the damage along the affected nerve.
Nov. 10, 2011
- Stewart JD. Foot drop: Where, why and what to do? Practical Neurology. 2008;8:158.
- NINDS foot drop information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/foot_drop/foot_drop.htm. Accessed Sept. 6, 2011.
- Ropper AH, et al. Disorders of stance and gait. In: Ropper AH, et al. Adams & Victor's Principles of Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Medical; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=3630849. Accessed Sept. 6, 2011.
- Thompson PD. Gait disorders. In: Bradley WG, et al. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7506-7525-3..X5001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-7506-7525-3&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Sept. 6, 2011.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Sept. 6, 2011.
- Sackley C, et al. Rehabilitation interventions for foot drop in neuromuscular disease (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009:CD003908. http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews. Accessed Sept. 6, 2011.
- Spinner RJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 21, 2011.
- Preventing falls and related fractures. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent_falls.asp. Accessed Sept. 6. 2011.
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